Researchers may have determined what’s giving monkeypox the ability to spread faster and evade vaccines in a new study.

Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Missouri (MU) released the findings of the study they conducted on the monkeypox virus.

They sought to better understand the virus that has now infected more than 77,000 people and spread in over 100 countries worldwide.

After studying monkeypox and analyzing their collected data, they reported that mutations have allowed the virus to grow stronger and smarter over time that they are now capable of evading antiviral drugs and vaccines, EurekAlert reported.

The team has also identified the specific mutations in the virus that enabled it to become highly infectious.

“By doing a temporal analysis, we were able to see how the virus has evolved over time, and a key finding was the virus is now accumulating mutations specifically where drugs and antibodies from vaccines are supposed to bind,” Shrikesh Sachdev, one of the researchers, said.

“So, the virus is getting smarter, it is able to avoid being targeted by drugs or antibodies from our body’s immune response and continue to spread to more people,” Sachdev added.

In response to the findings, there could be a need for modified versions of existing drugs used to treat monkeypox patients. The medical community could also develop new drugs for the new mutations in the virus.

“When they sent me the data, I saw that the mutations were occurring at critical points impacting DNA genome binding, as well as where drugs and vaccine-induced antibodies are supposed to bind,” MU College of Veterinary Medicine professor Kamlendra Singh, who was part of the team, said.

Singh noted that the mutations contribute to the virus’ increased infectivity. According to the researcher, determining these factors is crucial in solving the problem of the monkeypox virus.

The team’s study was recently published in the Journal of Autoimmunity.