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Monkeypox as an emerging infectious disease: the ophthalmic implications
  1. Alice L Milligan1,
  2. Su-yin Koay1,
  3. Jake Dunning2,3
  1. 1 Corneal and External Diseases Department and Accident and Emergency Department, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 Pandemic Sciences Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Alice L Milligan, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK; alice.milligan{at}


The 2022 outbreak of monkeypox is of worldwide significance. There has been a rapid escalation in case numbers despite efforts to contain it and the WHO has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. To date, over 51 257 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported, the majority in non-endemic countries, with 3279 in the UK. It is vital for ophthalmologists to understand this disease and the risk it poses.

Human monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a double-stranded DNA virus in the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. Other orthopoxviruses include variola (smallpox), cowpox and vaccinia; all of which have significant ocular sequelae. Transmission occurs from an animal reservoir (unknown, likely rodents) to a human host, leading to secondary human-to-human spread. During the recent outbreak, a higher incidence has been found in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.

Clinical diagnosis may be challenging as presentation can mimic common ophthalmic diseases. A thorough history is key to identifying potential cases. Ophthalmic manifestations may include preseptal cellulitis, conjunctivitis and keratitis. The oral antiviral agent tecovirimat, which was developed to treat smallpox, is the mainstay of treatment. Trifluorothymidine (trifluridine) eye-drops can be used for ophthalmic involvement. In addition, smallpox vaccines have provided some cross-immunity.

Ocular monkeypox should be managed by infectious diseases specialists, in consultation with ophthalmologists to provide the expertise needed to treat potentially vision-threatening complications. This outbreak highlights the need for healthcare providers to implement appropriate infection control measures and be familiar with the identification and treatment of both cutaneous and ocular disease.

  • conjunctiva
  • cornea
  • epidemiology
  • infection
  • microbiology

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Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.

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Data availability statement

Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study.

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  • Contributors ALM conceived and designed the article and prepared the first draft. S-yK and JD critically revised and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.