Simpler tools to eradicate polio in works at UW and PATH

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Simpler tools to eradicate polio in works at UW and PATH

Two new tools – a system to improve the process of water-sampling and a simplified diagnostic for people – may soon strengthen global efforts to detect and eradicate poliovirus. Researchers at the University of Washington and at PATH, an international health organization, are developing the tools in concert. 

Poliovirus can spread quickly, facilitated by sewage-contaminated floodwaters, infected travelers and gaps in immunization coverage. Sewage is an ideal place to look for the virus, and can be used to track the infection in a population.

Most environmental surveillance methods require workers to collect waste or standing water and transport it to a laboratory, where it is processed and prepared for testing. Since 2012, UW researchers have been developing a bag-mediated filtration system that could decrease the time to process an environmental sample from one month to two days. The safer, easily transported kit allows workers to gather and filter much more fluid, dramatically increasing their chance of finding poliovirus in an environment. 

“Everyone wants to increase the amount of surveillance to pin down where transmission is occurring,” said Dr. Scott Meschke, a UW associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences. “If a bottleneck in the laboratory is hindering those efforts, then that’s a real problem. That’s a key rationale behind this project – to minimize that bottleneck.”