News of the WeekPUBLIC HEALTH

Type 2 Poliovirus Back From The Dead in Nigeria

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Science  07 Aug 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5941, pp. 660-661
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_660

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In 1999, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative scored an unequivocal victory: It wiped one of three serotypes of wild poliovirus, type 2, off the face of the earth, except for samples stored in labs for study or vaccine creation. That triumph left just two foes to battle, poliovirus types 1 and 3, which have continued to put up quite a fight. But now a version of type 2 has returned. Springing back to life from a weakened form of the pathogen used in a vaccine, poliovirus type 2 is causing a runaway outbreak in Nigeria, where types 1 and 3 are also raging. In July, the World Health Organization issued a global alert warning that type 2 poliovirus in Nigeria posed an "increasing risk of international spread." It's a stunning setback for the initiative, now already 9 years past its original deadline for vanquishing the virus.