An independent commission of international health experts has concluded that wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) has been eradicated worldwide.
Following the eradication of smallpox and wild poliovirus type 2, this news represents a historic achievement for humanity, the World Health Organisation says.
The news was announced on World Polio Day in October
There are three individual and immunologically-distinct wild poliovirus strains: wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1), wild poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) and wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3). Symptomatically, all three strains are identical, in that they cause irreversible paralysis or even death. But there are genetic and virologic differences which make these three strains three separate viruses that must each be eradicated individually.
WPV3 is the second strain of the poliovirus to be wiped out, following the certification of the eradication of WPV2 in 2015. The last case of WPV3 was detected in northern Nigeria in 2012. Since then, the strength and reach of the eradication program’s global surveillance system has been critical to verify that this strain is truly gone. Investments in skilled workers, innovative tools and a global network of laboratories have helped determine that no WPV3 exists anywhere in the world, apart from specimens locked in secure containment.
At a celebration event at the headquarters of the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, Professor David Salisbury, chair of the independent Global Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication said: “This this is a significant achievement that should reinvigorate the eradication process and provides motivation for the final step – the eradication of wild poliovirus type 1.
“This virus remains in circulation in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. We cannot stop our efforts now. We must eradicate all remaining strains of all polioviruses.
“We do have good news from Africa – no wild poliovirus type 1 has been detected anywhere on the continent since 2016 in the face of ever improving surveillance.
“Although the region is affected by circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses, which must urgently be stopped, it does appear as if the continent is free of all wild polioviruses, a tremendous achievement.”
Eradicating WPV3 proves that a polio-free world is achievable. Key to success will be the ongoing commitment of the international development community. To this effect, as part of a Global Health Week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in November, the Reaching the Last Mile Forum will focus international attention on eradication of the world’s deadliest diseases and provide an opportunity for world leaders and civil society organisations, notably Rotary International which is at the origin of this effort, to contribute to the last mile of polio eradication.