Late last year, the National Clinical Evidence Taskforce (NCET) scaled up to gather the latest evidence on the emerging public health threat of MPX – or Monkey Pox as it was then called. MPX is a viral zoonotic disease that can spread between animals and humans, usually found in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa.
MPX infections began to rise in other regions in May 2022, with new cases appearing in multiple countries around the world – including Australia. By July, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the MPX outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly declared MPX to be a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.
The urgent need for trusted and up-to-date evidence was clear. With generous support from the Walter Cottman Endowment Fund managed by Equity Trustees, NCET was able to respond to meet the information and clinical guidance needs of clinicians, policy makers and consumers. In collaboration with the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), an expert panel of clinicians and consumers was convened to review the latest MPX evidence coming in from around the globe. A series of 19 consensus recommendations based on weekly evidence searches then formed the national MPX living guidelines, which were first published in October 2022 and have been updated four times.
Fast forward to today and the national and international health and research landscapes have changed significantly. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer has downgraded the public health risk for MPX and there are currently very few cases of MPX in Australia. Just last week the WHO announced that MPX is no longer a public health emergency of international concern, highlighting global progress in controlling outbreaks in recent months. Additionally, our weekly searches have found there is very little evidence on MPX being published locally or globally, and the major trials that are under way will not be reporting until much later this year.
In light of these developments and the uncertainty of Taskforce funding beyond June this year, NCET has taken the decision to retire the MPX Living Guidelines for now. In practice this means that while the existing recommendations will remain freely available online, the guidelines will not be updated with new evidence in the foreseeable future.
The Taskforce sincerely thanks all our evidence officers, panel members, partners and funders for facilitating the development of the MPX living guidelines. Together, we demonstrated the value of living evidence and NCET’s capabilities to scale up at speed to gather the latest evidence on new and emerging threats.