Open Access Research

Genetic relationships and epidemiological links between wild type 1 poliovirus isolates in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Mehar Angez, Shahzad Shaukat, Muhammad M Alam, Salmaan Sharif, Adnan Khurshid and Syed Sohail Zahoor Zaidi*

Author Affiliations

Virology Department, National Institute of Health Park Road, Chak Shahzad, Islamabad (45500), Pakistan

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:51  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-51

Published: 22 February 2012



Efforts have been made to eliminate wild poliovirus transmission since 1988 when the World Health Organization began its global eradication campaign. Since then, the incidence of polio has decreased significantly. However, serotype 1 and serotype 3 still circulate endemically in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both countries constitute a single epidemiologic block representing one of the three remaining major global reservoirs of poliovirus transmission. In this study we used genetic sequence data to investigate transmission links among viruses from diverse locations during 2005-2007.


In order to find the origins and routes of wild type 1 poliovirus circulation, polioviruses were isolated from faecal samples of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) patients. We used viral cultures, two intratypic differentiation methods PCR, ELISA to characterize as vaccine or wild type 1 and nucleic acid sequencing of entire VP1 region of poliovirus genome to determine the genetic relatedness.


One hundred eleven wild type 1 poliovirus isolates were subjected to nucleotide sequencing for genetic variation study. Considering the 15% divergence of the sequences from Sabin 1, Phylogenetic analysis by MEGA software revealed that active inter and intra country transmission of many genetically distinct strains of wild poliovirus type 1 belonged to genotype SOAS which is indigenous in this region. By grouping wild type 1 polioviruses according to nucleotide sequence homology, three distinct clusters A, B and C were obtained with multiple chains of transmission together with some silent circulations represented by orphan lineages.


Our results emphasize that there was a persistent transmission of wild type1 polioviruses in Pakistan and Afghanistan during 2005-2007. The epidemiologic information provided by the sequence data can contribute to the formulation of better strategies for poliomyelitis control to those critical areas, associated with high risk population groups which include migrants, internally displaced people, and refugees. The implication of this study is to maintain high quality mass immunization with oral polio vaccine (OPV) in order to interrupt chains of virus transmission in both countries to endorse substantial progress in Eastern-Mediterranean region.

Poliovirus; Wild type1; Pakistan; Afghanistan; Molecular epidemiology