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To determine a demographic overview of orthopoxvirus seroprevalence, we tested blood samples collected during 2003-2019 from France (n = 4,876), Bolivia (n = 601), Laos (n = 657), and Mali (n = 255) for neutralizing antibodies against vaccinia virus. In addition, we tested 4,448 of the 4,876 samples from France for neutralizing antibodies against cowpox virus. We confirmed extensive cross-immunity between the 2 viruses. Seroprevalence of antibodies was <1% in Bolivia, <5% in Laos, and 17.25% in Mali. In France, we found low prevalence of neutralizing antibodies in persons who were unvaccinated and vaccinated for smallpox, suggesting immunosenescence occurred in vaccinated persons, and smallpox vaccination compliance declined before the end of compulsory vaccination. Our results suggest that populations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America are susceptible to orthopoxvirus infections, which might have precipitated the emergence of orthopoxvirus infections such as the 2022 spread of monkeypox in Europe.

Original publication




Journal article


Emerging infectious diseases

Publication Date





2463 - 2471


Humans, Orthopoxvirus, Communicable Diseases, Smallpox, Seroepidemiologic Studies, Mali, Bolivia, Laos, Antibodies, Neutralizing