British health agencies have secured funding to develop a standardised approach to test the performance of vaccines being used or in development against monkeypox, days after the World Health Organization labelled the growing outbreak a global health emergency.

Until this year, the viral disease has rarely spread outside Africa where it is endemic. But reports of a handful of cases in Britain in early May signalled that the outbreak had moved into Europe. So far, there have been more than 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations on Wednesday said it would fund up to $375,000 to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to develop standard tools to assess the strength and duration of immune responses generated by current vaccines, and to detect monkeypox antibody levels.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Catherine Evans)