Once thought to be completely eradicated, a new survey has found the polio virus living inside a man's gut for many years. The results have sent shockwaves across the global medical community who have long thought the virus had been wiped out.
An anonymous British man showed no signs of the illness, but his stool was found to contain a highly infectious form of the virus. After receiving a full supplement of oral polio immunization at the required intervals, an unrelated health condition affected his immune system rendering it incapable of eliminating the virus. At least 100 stool samples collected over 20 years confirm the virus' continual presence.
The survey is available in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
Though viral stool has been seen before, particularly in the case of the herpes virus, this is the most significant case that medical experts have ever seen. 73 other incidences of people whose immune systems have been incapable of destroying the virus have also been verified.
As for the British individual, contact with people who have been fully immunized against the virus does not pose any threat. Were he to be intimate with someone with a condition similar to his, though, a polio outburst could be the result.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative selected 2018 as the year when the illness would be wholly eliminated from Earth. However, international conflicts and the mutation of the disease through immunizations have made this hard to achieve. Three types of feral poliovirus do exist in the world and raise doubt that the virus can ever be fully eradicated.
They raise fears about just how much of the virus is lingering around the world. If the virus is still around, which the new study has confirmed, it could only be a matter of time before virulent new mutations appear that cannot be treated by normal drug therapies.
The World Health Organization is set to trial a new vaccine for polio in April 2016.