FRIDAY, Sept. 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — U.S. health officials are advising doctors not to overuse the only antiviral for monkeypox because there is a risk for the virus mutating and rendering the drug useless.

TPOXX (tecovirimat) works by targeting just one protein found on monkeypox, as well as smallpox and similar viruses. Its use for monkeypox is still considered experimental, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Even a single molecular change to the virus “could have a large impact on the antiviral activity of TPOXX,” the FDA said in an online update.

“For most patients with intact immune systems, supportive care and pain control may be enough,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Institutes of Health will conduct a study with more than 500 patients in 60 locations to track for any signs of mutations in the monkeypox virus. Research in labs, animals, and people has suggested that monkeypox could develop resistance to the antiviral in multiple ways, the FDA said.

Federal health officials are showing cautious optimism about the outbreak. Cases have fallen 50 percent after a peak last month, according to the CDC. Rochelle Walensky, M.D., director of the CDC, said during the Thursday monkeypox briefing that vaccinations, educational outreach, and reduction in behaviors linked to spread have had an impact.

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