Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Polio still a threat to public health, expert says

Date:
November 8, 2011
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
After years of tracking isolated cases of live poliovirus, a medical researcher reports that the wild poliovirus can still be found in countries that were widely believed polio-free.

Health professionals and researchers across the globe believe they are on the verge of eradicating polio, a devastating virus which can lead to paralysis and death. Despite successful eradication in most countries, there are still four countries where the virus is considered endemic -- and many more in which the virus still lurks.

Dr. Lester Shulman of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Israeli Ministry of Health has spent years tracking isolated cases of live poliovirus infections, often discovered in countries that are supposedly polio-free. When the live-virus version of the vaccine, called Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) evolves, he says, it can act like wild poliovirus and continue the threat of contagion.

Medical professionals widely believe that after the wild virus is eradicated, resources dedicated to polio immunization can be redirected. But this isn't so, he says. He recommends that public health agencies take a three-pronged approach: Vaccination policies to maintain "herd immunity" (a 95 percent immunization rate for polio) should be maintained to prevent the spread of wild and evolved vaccine strains of the virus; environmental surveillance of sewage systems should continue; and a switch to Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) instead of OPV should be implemented.

Dr. Shulman's research was recently published in PLoS ONE. He has also been invited as an informal expert to the World Health Organization's annual meeting on polio this fall.

A decade-long chase

While the eradication of polio is seemingly within reach, this is not the time to relax, Dr. Shulman warns. Most countries only investigate the possibility of poliovirus outbreaks when paralytic cases appear in the human population. But this doesn't take into account a potential problem posed by the live virus vaccine. Over time, the vaccine can mutate, and even a 1 percent genomic change in the virus permits the virus to behave like a wild poliovirus. If a population isn't sufficiently immunized, this spells trouble.

Israel is among the few countries that practice environmental surveillance for polio, beginning in 1989. Checking designated sites along sewage systems every month for evidence of the virus allows for early detection before there are paralytic cases. For the past decade, the researchers have been trying to trace the origin of the strain that infected two individuals in Central Israel. They tracked the strains to the sewage system, and have been working to pinpoint the origin. Fortunately, because Israel maintains herd immunity for the disease, the wider population has not been threatened.

Dr. Shulman says that in the lab, each strain of the virus can be identified from its genomic structure and traced back to the region from which it originated. "From the sequence of the genome, you can match it with known sequences reported by labs throughout the world," he explains. For example, he and his colleagues traced a wild poliovirus discovered in sewage from the Gaza District to a village in Egypt.

New hope for curing persistent infections

Convinced by the efficacy of Israel's environmental surveillance program, many other countries are starting to develop tracking programs of their own. As a result, they are finding evidence of vaccine-derived polio cases in humans. Paradoxically, Dr. Shulman sees a beacon of hope in these discoveries. As labs across the world report more cases, researchers gain a better understanding of how polioviruses establish persistent infections and can then develop effective measures to eliminate them.

The fellow researchers are now working to develop compounds that can effectively fight these rare cases of persistent poliovirus infections. So far, they have seen promising results, noting that the mutants strains have not become resistant to the drugs under investigation. But for now, Dr. Shulman recommends that health authorities continue immunization using inactivated vaccines (IPV) to keep their populations safe.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Polio still a threat to public health, expert says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111107161802.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2011, November 8). Polio still a threat to public health, expert says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111107161802.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Polio still a threat to public health, expert says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111107161802.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins