The goal of eradicating polio worldwide is within sight. But public health officials must make sure that vaccines administered after that point cannot cause a recurrence of the disease. Researchers in Britain have come up with a safe strain that would prevent polio reinfection.
Polio vaccines are stockpiled for use into the foreseeable future to prevent another epidemic of paralytic polio, once the disease is officially eradicated.
Experts say there is always a chance the live, weakened virus used to make the warehoused drugs could escape factories, risking new cases of polio. There have also been instances in which mutated viral strains survive in the gut of immune-compromised people after they have been vaccinated.
At the urging of the World Health Organization, British researchers have developed safe seed strains from which to make polio vaccine. They modified viral RNA to make the resulting strains genetically stable. The strains that are now used have in rare cases mutated into dangerous forms.
Vaccines made from the new seed strains would not pose a health hazard at manufacturing facilities, nor be dangerous if they entered into the environment, according to British National Institute for Biological Standards and Control Virology Division head Philip Minor. He helped develop the new strains for polio vaccine, which researchers describe in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
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