Vaccine-Derived Polio Virus Found In London Sewage Samples For First Time In Decades: Report

New Delhi: A type of poliovirus derived from vaccines has been discovered in sewage samples in London after decades, the World Health Organization and British health officials said on Wednesday. No human cases of polio have been found in Britain, where the disease was eradicated two decades ago, according to a report by the AFP news agency. More analysis of the latest development is underway, officials said.

According to a statement from the WHO, “type 2 vaccine-derived polio virus (VDPV2)” has been found in environmental samples in the British capital.

“It is important to note that the virus has only been isolated from environmental samples,” the statement said, adding that “no associated cases of paralysis have been detected.”

However, the WHO warned that “any kind of polio virus anywhere poses a threat to children everywhere.”

According to David Elliman, a pediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, parents often ask why vaccines against polio are still being given even after it has been banned in the UK.

“The answer is that although we are an island, we are not isolated from the rest of the world, which means that diseases can be brought in from abroad,” AFP quoted the doctor as saying.

“The finding of a vaccine-derived poliovirus in sewage proves the point,” he added.

Notably, an international effort in recent decades has nearly achieved the complete eradication of the crippling viral disease that primarily affects children under the age of five.

According to the AFP report, polio cases have fallen 99 percent since 1988, when the disease was endemic in 125 countries and 350,000 cases were recorded worldwide.

The wild version of the polio virus now exists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but a type of vaccine containing small amounts of attenuated live polio still causes occasional outbreaks elsewhere.

Polio eradication expert Kathlene O’Reilly said the discovery in London’s sewage samples shows “there may be a localized spread of polio virus, most likely in individuals unaware of polio immunisations”.

“The most effective way to prevent further spread is to check vaccination history, especially of young children, to make sure polio vaccination is included,” she added.

According to the WHO, there were 959 confirmed cases of VDPV2 worldwide in 2020.

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