\The Non-Polio Illness That “Looks Just Like Polio” • Children’s Health Defense
A perplexing aspect of EV-D68 (an enterovirus first identified in the 1960s) is that, like the millennia-old poliovirus, the genetically older strains of EV-D68 “had never been known to cause paralysis” before 2014, being primarily associated in otherwise healthy individuals with mild cold-like symptoms. Post-2014, researchers who isolated never-previously-encountered strains of EV-D68 from pediatric AFM cases speculated that “recent genetic virus evolution” might be responsible for EV-D68’s sudden “neurovirulence.”
Studies in countries such as Ghana and China have identified vaccine-derived poliovirus in children with paralysis in regions with high live oral poliovirus coverage—while labeling the children’s illness AFP rather than polio.
The case of the oral polio vaccine
“Neurovirulence” is a term very familiar to those who have studied the occurrence of vaccine-associated poliomyelitis in countries that use the live oral poliovirus (OPV) vaccine. The OPV vaccine is acknowledged to be “genetically unstable” and capable of evolving “in the human intestine to regain the neurovirulence and replication characteristics of its parental wild-type strains.” Studies in countries such as Ghana and China have identified vaccine-derived poliovirus in children with paralysis in regions with high OPV coverage—while labeling the children’s illness AFP rather than polio.
Indian researchers recently described the relationship between rates of “non-polio acute flaccid paralysis” (NPAFP) and the country’s practice of “pulse polio immunisation” (periodic OPV vaccination of all children under age five). The number of polio rounds “had a high correlation with the NPAFP rate,” and the mortality rate in NPAFP patients was “twice the mortality rate for wild polio.”
When the researchers calculated “the number of paralyzed children each year which exceeded the expected numbers” for the period from 2000–2017, they found that there were “an additional 491,000 paralyzed children” above the expected number of 149,000. Given the strong association of non-polio paralysis “with the number of OPV doses delivered,” the researchers intriguingly speculated that:
“…repeated doses of the live vaccine virus delivered to the intestine may colonize the gut and alter the viral microbiome of the intestine, and this can result in strain shifts of enteropathogens. It is possible that new neurotropic [i.e., preferentially attacking the nervous system] enteroviruses colonizing the gut may induce paralysis.”