Efforts to Eradicate Polio Receive Much Needed Funds
November 30, 2007 -- The global campaign to eradicate polio received a $200 million grant this week to help fund the final push to wipe out the disease that mostly strikes children under five. The grant from the Gates Foundation and Rotary International will go largely toward immunization campaigns, surveillance, and public education.
Polio incidence has been reduced by more than 99 percent worldwide since the eradication effort began in 1988. However, the virus persists in Afghanistan, Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Somalia. Armed conflicts and weak health services in these areas make it difficult to reach the high vaccination levels needed to stop the disease. And poor sanitation and pervasive intestinal viruses diminish the polio vaccine's effectiveness in India.
The highly infectious polio virus can cause severe, lasting damage such as difficulty walking and breathing, and partial or total paralysis.
Concerned about the use of the oral polio vaccine, which contains live polio virus, the World Health Organization currently plans to stop using the oral vaccine three years after the detection of the last case of transmission of wild polio virus.
The National Research Council published a workshop report about the potential need for antiviral drugs in the eradication of polio, calling for their research and development as they could be useful to control any polio outbreaks that might occur after vaccination ends and the number of unimmunized people in the world steadily increases. The report also identifies several promising targets for drug development and outlines steps for clinical trials and regulatory approval.