It is safe and you can’t get safer than safe

Published by Dr. Nadeera Nilupamali on

Poliomyelitis is an infectious viral disease which attacks the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, often causing muscle wasting and paralysis and even death. The studies conducted on Egyptian mummies suggested the transmission of poliomyelitis during ancient times. In 1855, Duchenne located the atrophy in the anterior horns of the spinal grey matter and his finding lead to the term “poliomyelitis” which derived from the Greek words polios for “gray” and myelos for “spinal cord”. The virus was easily transmitting and polio outbreaks, each seeming to get more disastrous in early 20th century. The disease was specially affecting infants, children and adult were also often affected.

In early 1940s Jonas Salk a US scientist began to investigating the poliovirus. There were 125 different strains of the virus which fell into three basic types and he designed his vaccine to protect against these three types. Salk used virus grown on monkey kidney cells and inactivated with formalin. The first inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) was tested in 1954 a placebo-controlled trial, which enrolled 1.6 million children in Canada, Finland and the United States. By the year 1961 paralytic poliomyelitis in the United States decreased from 13.9 cases per 100 000 in 1954 to 0.8 cases per 100 000 due to Salk’s vaccine. Another researcher, Albert Sabin, develop orally given poliovirus vaccine (OPV) consists of three live attenuated Sabin poliovirus strains. He tested his newly developed trivalent oral vaccine to 26 033 children from a city of 100 000 people in South America. OPV provided good antibody levels and were less neurotropic effects, hence the vaccine was licensed between 1961 and 1963 in the United States for widespread application.

With the development vaccines against poliovirus complete eradication of poliomyelitis became an objective globally. In 1988, the WHO proposed the worldwide poliomyelitis eradication and since then polio case number has decreased by more than 99%. To date more than 16 million lives have been saved from paralysis because of polio vaccine initiatives. Eradication of polio is the largest ever internationally coordinated public effort in history. More than 20 million volunteers worldwide have collectively immunized 3 billion children worldwide in past 20 years. The world can be freed from the threat of polio from everyone’s commitment , every child must be vaccinated even the ones who live in most undeserved places on planet.


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