This unexpected news struck a raw nerve among lay people and scientists alike. The work was condemned as dangerous and irresponsible, scorned as a stunt and perceived as a challenge to divine power. It was also hailed as a milestone in biology. What really happened?[i]
The charade about polio eradication and the great savings it will bring has persisted to date. It is a paradox, that while the director general of WHO, Margret Chan, and Bill Gates are trying to muster support for polio eradication (22) it has been known to the scientific community, for over 10 years, that eradication of polio is impossible.
This is because in 2002 scientists had synthesized a chemical called poliovirus in a test-tube with the empirical formula C332,652H492,388N98,245O131,196P7,501S2,340.
It has been demonstrated that by positioning the atoms in sequence, a particle can emerge with all the properties required for its proliferation and survival in nature (23, 24).
Wimmer writes that the test-tube synthesis of poliovirus has wiped out any possibility of eradicating poliovirus in the future. Poliovirus cannot be declared extinct because the sequence of its genome is known and modern biotechnology allows it to be resurrected at any time in vitro.
Man can thus never let down his guard against poliovirus. Indeed the 18-year-old global eradication campaign for polioviruses will have to be continued in some format forever. The long promised "infinite" monetary benefits from ceasing to vaccinate against poliovirus will never be achieved (24). The attraction that 'eradication’ has for policy makers will vanish once this truth is widely known.[ii]
[I]n 2005, a fifth of the cases of non-polio AFP in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) were followed up after 60 days. 35.2% were found to have residual paralysis and 8.5% had died (making the total of residual paralysis or death - 43.7%) (28). Sathyamala examined data from the following year and showed that children who were identified with non-polio AFP were at more than twice the risk of dying than those with wild polio infection (27).
However, a different question arises: does the test-tube synthesis negate efforts to eradicate poliovirus? The conceptual answer to this is yes. Poliovirus cannot be declared extinct because the sequence of its genome is known and modern biotechnology allows it to be resurrected at any time in vitro. This is true for all viruses, including smallpox.
Indeed, the global eradication campaign for polioviruses, now in its eighteenth year, has proven much more difficult than anticipated. Apart from the resilience of circulating wild-type viruses, major problems have emerged as a result of intrinsic properties of the OPV.
It has the propensity to escape its designated role as a protecting immunogen by circulating in poorly immunized populations, thereby evolving into highly neurovirulent poliovirus strains after recombination with other enteroviruses (Kew et al, 2005; P. Jiang, J.A.J. Faase, A.E. Gorbalenya and E. Wimmer, unpublished data).
This independent occurrence in different parts of the world causes yearly outbreaks of poliomyelitis. In addition, immune-deficient persons receiving the OPV can develop persistent infections, shedding highly neurovirulent poliovirus for years (MacLennan et al, 2004). The known number of persistently infected persons is small and the actual number of poliovirus shedders cannot be determined at the present time.
But persistently infected individuals pose a serious health threat once vaccination has been terminated. These complications have led a panel of experts to recommend the development of novel anti-polio drugs for the control of poliomyelitis (National Research Council, 2006).
Instead, a large portion of the world's vaccines are given to the third world as "charity," when the underlying conditions of economic impoverishment, poor nutrition, chemical exposures, and socio-political unrest are never addressed.
You simply can't vaccinate people out of these conditions, and as India's new epidemic of vaccine-induced polio cases clearly demonstrates, the "cure" may be far worse than the disease itself.
[ii] Polio programme: let us declare victory and move on. Indian J Med Ethics. 2012 Apr-Jun;9(2):114-7. PMID: 22591873