Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche said today it had come up with PCR tests that can detect monkeypox, as the virus spreads outside endemic countries.

Roche and its subsidiary TIB Molbiol have developed three test kits which are for use by researchers in most countries worldwide, the Basel-based firm said.

The first kit detects viruses in the wider orthopoxvirus group. The second detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third detects both simultaneously.

"Roche has very quickly developed a new suite of tests that detect the monkeypox virus and aid in following its epidemiologic spread," said diagnostics chief Thomas Schinecker.

"Diagnostic tools are crucial for responding to and ultimately controlling emerging public health challenges as they advance response measures such as tracing efforts and treatment strategies."

Roche said the research test kits could assess the spread of the virus and help monitor the potential impact of treatments, vaccines and public health measures.

The World Health Organization said that as of 22 May, more than 250 confirmed and suspected cases had been officially reported to the UN health agency from 16 countries outside endemic nations in west and central Africa.

The WHO says a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the "preferred laboratory test given its accuracy and sensitivity". For this, optimal samples are from skin lesions and dry crusts.

It says PCR blood tests are usually inconclusive and should not be routinely collected from patients.

The WHO says antigen and antibody detection methods do not distinguish between orthopoxviruses.

WHO emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan said today that countries had been sharing information that was allowing the agency to better understand the spread of monkeypox.

He said its origins at the animal-human interface had not been properly controlled, "and we're paying a price now in monkeypox for an unmanaged, endemic disease which we do not fully understand".

"We have not put in place preventive measures and we're now dealing with a multi-country event directly related to our inability, or unwillingness, to manage those risks earlier," he said.

Finland discovers 'highly likely' case of monkeypox

Finland has identified a "highly likely" first case of monkeypox in the country, Helsinki hospital district has said.

Global health officials have sounded the alarm over rising cases of the monkeypox in Europe and elsewhere, which is a type of viral infection more common to west and central Africa.

The Helsinki hospital district found that a man, who had returned from a trip to another European country, had an infection caused by an orthopoxvirus and will by the end of the week know for sure whether it is monkeypox.

"The patient that is currently at home has blisters and a high fever but otherwise he is feeling well," the hospital district said.

Spain to buy monkeypox vaccine as cases reach 55

Spain will buy monkeypox vaccine, the health minister said today, as the number of cases in the country reached 55.

Health Minister Carolina Darias said the government would purchase Imvanex vaccine, which is made by the Danish company Bavarian Nordic, but she did not specify the number of doses.

"We are going to distribute the vaccine proportionally among the (17 Spanish regions)," Ms Darias told a news conference in Madrid.

Of Spain's total of cases, 51 have been reported in the region of Madrid, most of them traced to an adult sauna that was shuttered last week, with the other four cases in the Canary Islands.

A few cases in both regions were linked to a 10-day Pride festival in Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, where 80,000 people gathered at the beginning of May, regional authorities in Madrid and Gran Canaria said.

In neighbouring Portugal, the DGS health authority confirmed 10 new cases of monkeypox in the country today, bringing its total to 49.

The two Iberian countries have been among the main hotspots of the recent outbreak of the usually mild viral disease outside its endemic areas in parts of west and central Africa.

DGS said all confirmed cases had been found in men, most under age 40. No one has been hospitalised.

Madrid has also identified several private residences where transmission of the monkeypox virus occurred, and some of them had been visited by people from Britain, said a spokesperson for the regional administration. British authorities were the first to report monkeypox cases in the recent outbreak on 7 May.

Most of the infections detected globally so far in the outbreak have not been severe. Many, but not all, have been reported in men who have sex with men. Symptoms include fever and a distinctive bumpy rash.

7 cases detected in England

Another seven cases of monkeypox have been detected in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.

It brings the total number in the UK to 78, with 77 cases identified in England and one in Scotland.

As of 24 May, no cases have been identified in Wales or Northern Ireland, the UKHSA added.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UKHSA, said: "We are continuing to promptly detect new monkeypox cases through our extensive surveillance network and NHS services".