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WHO South East Asia J Public Health. 2018 Sep;7(2):122-128. doi: 10.4103/2224-3151.239424.

Successes and challenges of expansion of environmental poliovirus surveillance in the WHO South-East Asia Region.

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World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India.


The last decade has witnessed an exponential expansion of environmental surveillance (ES) of poliovirus in sewage samples in the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Region. This has grown from only three sites in Mumbai, India in 2001 to 56 sites in 2017 in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. ES is critical to the region in providing evidence of silent transmission of vaccine-derived poliovirus and Sabin-like poliovirus type 2 - especially since the global "switch" to cease use of oral polio vaccine type 2 - and for monitoring the effectiveness of containment activities. This targeted expansion of ES to supplement surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) required quality assurance in ES procedures, improvements in the sensitivity of the laboratory-based surveillance system, and establishment of real-time data analysis for evidence-based programmes. ES in the region has provided documentary evidence for the absence of indigenous wild poliovirus in circulation and no importations via international travellers. Post-switch, while no vaccine-derived poliovirus was detected from AFP cases, ES identified five ambiguous vaccine-derived polioviruses in 2016 and early 2017, with no evidence of circulation. Future challenges include monitoring for vaccine-derived poliovirus strains shed for a prolonged time by immunodeficient individuals, and expanding ES to areas lacking sewage networks. To maintain the polio-free status of the WHO South-East Asia Region and achieve a world free of poliomyelitis, critical evaluation of immunization coverage, continued performance of surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis, and enhanced analysis of sewage samples to detect any breach in containment are essential.


South-East Asia Region; poliovirus; senvironmental surveillance

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