2023

UCLA researchers receive CDC award to surveil Mpox as concern for reemergence grows

UCLA researchers, in collaboration with EMERGEncy ID NET, a CDC-supported US emergency department (ED)-based network for study of emerging infection led by Dr. David Talan, a professor of emergency medicine and of medicine/infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, have been awarded funding from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct surveillance of Mpox (formerly known as Monkeypox). Summer 2022’s international Mpox outbreak drastically receded by the fall after widespread public attention and vaccination of high-risk individuals. However, a recent outbreak among 20 people in Chicago and a few new cases locally in Los Angeles, including some vaccine breakthrough cases, and increased cases in other countries where vaccination was not available, has public health officials concerned about a resurgence of Mpox in the US.
 
Talan has directed EMERGEncy ID NET since 1995. The network was funded to undertake four projects on Mpox surveillance  this summer. The first award of $925,000 is for a project called, CRASHED – Cause of RASHes in the Emergency Department. According to Talan, “Our approach is to base Mpox surveillance on any patient presenting with a compatible rash. Mpox has been labeled a sexually transmitted infection when in fact it can spread by any skin-to-skin contact. Our concern is that Mpox cases may have only been suspected among the previously identified high-risk group, MSM, and infection in others, like women, children, and the homeless, may have been missed. Vulnerable people tend to use EDs, where we hope to determine if this infection is resurgent or remains rare.”
 
The other MPX awards, conducted through the EMERGEncy ID NET’s cooperative agreement with CDC, are studies led by UCLA Fielding School of Public Health researchers Dr. Pamina Gorbach, professor of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding and in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and Dr. Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology and the Gordon-Levin Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases and Public Health. One study will address past exposure to Mpox in two National Institute of Drug Abuse cohorts of young men who have sex with men (MSM) including one here in Los Angeles with Gorbach and Dr. Steven Shoptaw, professor in Family Medicine and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, as principle investigators, called the mSTUDY, and one in Chicago called the RADAR cohort. 

Gorbach — who is an expert on bio-behavioral dynamics of sexual health, including effects of drug abuse — was awarded $98,000 to identify the prevalence of Mpox exposure in these cohorts of MSM using stored blood samples from November 2021 through September 2022 and to evaluate the relationship between seropositivity and possible behavioral risk factors, and $369,000 to evaluate serological evidence of past Mpox virus infection in Los Angeles and Chicago. Gorbach is also leading another project with Dr. Robert Bolan, medical director of research and education health services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, enrolling MSM who report engaging in exchange sex in the prior year seeking care at their sexual health clinic to detect new Mpox cases.

The second study is led by Rimoin in collaboration with Dr. Jay Gladstein, chief medical officer of the AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health and Wellness, and is addressing Mpox vaccine immunogenicity among individuals seeking care at APLA clinics.

Rimoin — who directs the Center for Global and Immigrant Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and is founding director of the UCLA-DRC Health Research and Training Program — has been leading studies on Mpox in Central Africa for two decades. The funding ($940,000) was awarded to continue an ongoing study, originally supported by the California Department of Public Health to assess the effectiveness and durability of immune response to the Jynneos vaccine and risk factors associated with Mpox infections.

 

By: UCLA Health

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