This Sunday, 12 April, is the 60th anniversary of the polio vaccine being declared safe to use. Polio was a major health concern for much of the twentieth century, but in the last sixty years huge gains have been made that have almost resulted in its complete eradication.
A human enterovirus called the poliovirus causes the condition. There are three serotypes of the wild poliovirus — Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3. Type 2 poliovirus has most likely been eradicated, and Type 3 is at very low levels, but the pervasive Type 1 strain continues to circulate in endemic areas.
As the WHO global eradication programme enters its end-game stage, we are closer than ever before to a polio free world. The destructive virus that has caused serious long-term health effects and debilitating injuries to so many people, especially children, for much of human history, may now be completely eradicated by 2018. For a brief history of the successes and setbacks in the fight against polio, explore this interactive timeline from Oxford Medicine Online.
Heading image: Wellcome Polio vaccine dropped on to sugar lump for child patient. CC BY 4.0 via Wellcome Library, London.