Polio: double vaccine 'key to global eradication'

Aug 22, 2014

Breakthrough research suggests combination of two existing drugs provides best protection


Using a combination of live and inactive polio vaccines could finally eradicate polio, according to new research described as "truly historic" by Dr Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organisation's assistant director general for polio.

Polio, an acute virus that spreads through faecal matter, can cause paralysis and even death. The disease has been largely eradicated but remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. 

Previously, doctors had been using either a live oral vaccine or an inactivated polio vaccine that is injected. Choosing between the two has been "highly controversial" among health care professionals, according to Imperial College.

The research showed that by combining the two drugs they were able to lower both infection and transmission. "They both have an important role to play in the eradication programme," said Professor Nick Grassly, co-author of the study.

This approach is now being adopted by the WHO in its battle to eradicate polio, the scientist reports.

"This study has revolutionised our understanding of inactivated polio vaccine and how to use it in the global eradication effort to ensure children receive the best and quickest protection possible from this disease," said Aylward.

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