PerspectiveEpidemiology

Mucosal immunity and the eradication of polio

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Science  24 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6489, pp. 362-363
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb8588

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Summary

Epidemics of paralytic disease due to poliovirus were an annual occurrence in the early 20th century. In 1916, there were 2000 deaths in New York City alone from the nationwide epidemic. Closures of swimming pools and movie theaters, and not shaking hands or handling money during summertime polio epidemics, predated the social distancing we practice today due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Because of successful vaccination programs, the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific are considered polio-free. However, poliovirus is still a threat in many countries, and vaccination initiatives have been active in those regions. On page 401 of this issue, Macklin et al. (1) report on an emerging problem of a polio outbreak in Africa and Asia that is derived from a strain used in the vaccination campaigns. This highlights a need for new approaches to vaccine development to avoid vaccine-derived polio.

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