A patient's lingering polio virus complicates its eradication

By Tomas Monzon  |  Aug. 29, 2015 at 9:08 AM
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LONDON, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A recent study that found polio virus lingering in a man's gut for decades could complicate the eradication of the disease.

An unnamed British man has no symptoms of the disease, but his stool has included a highly contagious form of the virus for much of his life. After receiving a full complement of oral polio vaccinations at the appropriate intervals, an unrelated health condition suppressed his immune system and rendered it incapable of destroying the virus. More than 100 stool samples taken over 20 years confirm the virus' continued presence.

The study is published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

Though viral stool has been found before, especially in the case of the herpes virus, this is the longest case of the phenomenon that doctors have ever seen. 73 other cases of individuals whose immune systems have been unable to destroy the virus for long periods of time have also been confirmed.

As for the British man, contact with others who have been fully vaccinated against the virus poses no threat. Were he to interact with someone with a condition similar to his, however, a polio outbreak could be the result.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative set 2018 as the year when the virus would be completely eradicated from Earth. However, global conflict and the mutation of the virus through vaccinations have made this difficult. Three strains of wild poliovirus still exist in the world.

The World Health Organization is set to trial a new vaccine beginning April 2016.

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