On India rests the onus of certifying that it has eradicated polio,as the Southeast Asia region (as defined by the World Health Organisation) waits expectantly for WHO to declare it polio-free. All the other countries in the region have long declared having eradicated polio. India has detected no case of the wild polio virus for two years,and if that continues till early 2014,the region will have completed three years without reporting such cases,making it the fourth polio-free WHO region.
WHO regions are certified polio-free by their respective regional certification commissions,or RCCs,on the basis of evidence presented by national certification committees. The RCC will consider regional certification only after three years have passed since the last case of indigenous wild polio virus was reported in the region,and the decision will depend on evidence of high-quality surveillance.
India has set up a national task force that will identify laboratories at research institutes and medical colleges to check and ensure that stool specimens stored there dont have the virus lurking in them,said Dr J M Deshpande,coordinator of the task force.
We have to prepare an exhaustive list of such labs to conduct a thorough search to rule out any kind of inadvertent risk that the virus from laboratories,government or private,may post, Deshpande said.
Laboratory containment is mandatory for regional certification. Phase 1 laboratory containment means that each country in the region has conducted a survey and submitted a list of institutions or laboratories that may harbour materials potentially infected with the wild polio virus.
Faecal samples preserved by laboratories in medical colleges or research centres may harbour the polio virus and other infectious material, Deshpande said. At times,there could be cases where specimens collected by Ph D students have been forgotten and relegated to college laboratories. This is where we need to contain the potential risk of inadvertently transmitting the virus. Containment facilities need to be checked and viruses kept under lock and key, said Deshpande,also the director of the Mumbai-based Enterovirus Research Centre,Indias only globally specialised laboratory on polio.
Indias last polio case was detected in January 2011,from West Bengal.