Monkeypox Virus and Ophthalmology-A Primer on the 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak and Monkeypox-Related Ophthalmic Disease

JAMA Ophthalmol. 2023 Jan 1;141(1):78-83. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.4567.


Importance: An ongoing global monkeypox virus outbreak in 2022 includes the US and other nonendemic countries. Monkeypox ophthalmic manifestations may present to the ophthalmologist, or the ophthalmologist may be involved in comanagement. This narrative review creates a primer for the ophthalmologist of clinically relevant information regarding monkeypox, its ophthalmic manifestations, and the 2022 outbreak.

Observations: Monkeypox virus is an Orthopoxvirus (genus includes variola [smallpox] and vaccinia [smallpox vaccine]). The 2022 outbreak is of clade II (historically named West African clade), specifically subclade IIb. In addition to historic transmission patterns (skin lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets), sexual transmission has also been theorized in the current outbreak due to disproportionate occurrence in men who have sex with men. Monkeypox causes a characteristic skin eruption and mucosal lesions and may cause ophthalmic disease. Monkeypox-related ophthalmic disease (MPXROD) includes a spectrum of ocular pathologies including eyelid/periorbital skin lesions, blepharoconjunctivitis, and keratitis). Smallpox vaccination may reduce MPXROD occurrence. MPXROD seems to be rarer in the 2022 outbreaks than in historical outbreaks. MPXROD may result in corneal scarring and blindness. Historical management strategies for MPXROD include lubrication and prevention/management of bacterial superinfection in monkeypox keratitis. Case reports and in vitro data for trifluridine suggest a possible role in MPXROD. Tecovirimat, cidofovoir, brincidofovir and vaccinia immune globulin intravenous may be used for systemic infection. There is a theoretical risk for monkeypox transmission by corneal transplantation, and the Eye Bank Association of America has provided guidance. Smallpox vaccines (JYNNEOS [Bavarian Nordic] and ACAM2000 [Emergent Product Development Gaithersburg Inc]) provide immunity against monkeypox.

Conclusions and relevance: The ophthalmologist may play an important role in the diagnosis and management of monkeypox. MPXROD may be associated with severe ocular and visual morbidity. As the current outbreak evolves, up-to-date guidance from public health organizations and professional societies are critical.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Eye Diseases*
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monkeypox virus
  • Mpox (monkeypox)* / diagnosis
  • Mpox (monkeypox)* / epidemiology
  • Ophthalmology*
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Smallpox*
  • Vaccinia*