In 2005, pustular lesions were noticed on the foot of a burns patient in Karachi, Pakistan. Similar lesions subsequently appeared on at least 19 other patients in the city’s burns units. As part of the investigation into the infection, biopsies were sent to Public Health England Porton for specialist testing.
Infected Vero cell cultures showed classic orthopox virus factories within the cytoplasm. Phylogenetic analysis of the B5R membrane protein gene sequence showed clustering with buffalopoxvirus isolates of Vaccinia virus1.
Buffalopox is a name historically used for Vaccinia virus infections in buffaloes, and is sometimes defined as a sub-species of Vaccinia. It is thought that the virus was introduced into the buffalo population of India and Pakistan during the smallpox eradication campaign, when water buffaloes were used to produce smallpox vaccine. It is an important zoonosis that can transmit to people who farm infected buffalo. The nosocomial outbreak in the burns units may have been initiated by the arrival of patients who had used ghee or butter from buffalo fat as a home remedy for burn injuries. Buffalopox continues to circulate in susceptible animals on the Indian subcontinent, re-emerging with sporadic zoonotic outbreaks.
In order to assist improvements in surveillance and disease control, the whole virus genome of the virus isolated in the Karachi outbreak was recently sequenced using combined Nanopore and Illumina technology2, and is now available from NCPV (1307091v). The annotated genome sequence is deposited in GenBank under the accession number MG599038.
Zafar et al (2007). Nosocomial buffalopoxvirus infection, Karachi, Pakistan. Emerg Inf Dis 13:902-904. [URL https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792849/]
Afrough et al (2018). Complete genome sequence of buffalopox virus. Genome Announc 6:e00444-18. [URL http://genomea.asm.org/content/6/21/e00444-18.short]
Moussatche et al (2008). When good vaccines go wild: feral orthopoxvirus in developing countries and beyond. J Infect Dev Ctries 2(3):156-73 [URL https://www.jidc.org/index.php/journal/article/view/19738346/146]
Poxvirus Pakistan (1307091v)
Vero cells (84113001)
BSC1 cells (85011422)
RK-13 cells (00021715)
Written by Karen Buttigieg