October 24, 2019
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‘A great achievement’: Wild poliovirus type 3 eradicated globally

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Photo of Apoorva Mallya
Apoorva Mallya

Wild poliovirus type 3, or WPV3, has been eradicated globally, experts announced on World Polio Day.

The declaration was made by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a partnership led by WHO, Rotary International, CDC, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The eradication of WPV3 follows the global eradication of WPV2 in 2015, leaving only WPV1 actively circulating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The last case of WPV3 was reported in northern Nigeria in 2012.

“Global WPV3 certification is a great achievement and an important milestone on the road to eradicating all poliovirus strains,” Apoorva Mallya, a senior program officer on the polio team at the Gates Foundation, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “It shows us that the GPEI’s approach — including rigorous surveillance — is working, successfully knocking out virus strains.”

The three strains of wild poliovirus all create the hallmark symptoms of polio, including potential paralysis. However, the three strains are immunologically distinct and require individual eradication strategies.

“This is extremely encouraging. But, at the same time, it also underscores that the strategies work only if they are fully implemented and financed,” Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesperson for the polio eradication effort at WHO, told Infectious Diseases in Children.

According to WHO, eradication was made possible through investments in skilled workers, state-of-the-art tools and a global network of labs. Rosenbauer said that these strategies now need to focus on global eradication of WPV1. He hopes that an upcoming pledge event next month in the United Arab Emirates will push these goals in the right direction.

“It is within our own hands to also finish type 1 poliovirus, but we must muster the necessary political and societal will to do so,” Rosenbauer said. “That is why the pledging moment in the UAE in November is so important. It will give the international community the opportunity to come together again and recommit, to ensure that no child will ever again be paralyzed by any poliovirus.”

Previously, Mallya noted several barriers to eradicating WPV1 in endemic countries, including hesitancy to accept house-to-house vaccine campaigns and ongoing conflict in these areas. Militants often act violently to halt vaccination campaigns.

Mallya also explained that to eradicate WPV1 globally, the GPEI’s strategy needs $3.27 billion in support.

“It is vital that the GPEI receive renewed political and financial support from governments and donors around the world to ensure we can end all forms of poliovirus everywhere,” he said. – by Katherine Bortz

Disclosures: Mallya and Rosenbauer report no relevant financial disclosures.