Containment of polioviruses worldwide and in Belgium - Historical background

  • 1988: The World Health Assembly adopts a resolution calling for global eradication of poliomyelitis. A global goal of disease eradication had previously only been accomplished for smallpox.
  • 1993-1996: The harmonised transposition of Directive 90/219/EEC on the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms in Belgium results in three transposition decrees (first in the Brussels-Capital region, then in the Flemish region and finally in Wallonia) whose scope is extended to the contained use of genetically modified organisms and pathogens.
  • 1999: The first Global Action Plan (GAP) for containment of wild type polioviruses (WPV) is developed. The implementation of the first GAP identifies the national laboratory survey and inventory as an essential first step towards containment.
  • June 2002: The World Health Organization (WHO) European Region is certified as free of indigenous wild poliovirus transmission, joining the WHO Regions of the Americas and the Western Pacific. The world will be declared free of wild poliovirus transmission when the Global Commission for Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis is satisfied that all WHO Regions have documented the absence of wild poliovirus circulation for at least three consecutive years and all wild poliovirus materials in laboratories are adequately contained.
    In this context, all countries are required to survey, prepare an inventory of laboratories that retain wild poliovirus infectious and/or potentially infectious materials and instruct them to implement appropriate biosafety measures for safe handling. Laboratories to be surveyed include not only those associated with traditional poliovirus laboratory functions but also laboratories in other sectors that could potentially have materials in storage collected during a time and in a place when wild poliovirus was circulating. The probability of a laboratory-associated poliovirus infection is small, but the consequences grow greater with time. After stopping vaccination, a chance reintroduction of poliovirus from one of these laboratories into the community could represent a public health threat of global proportions.
  • 2002: A National Laboratory Containment survey is conducted in Belgium, surveying a total of 411 institutions using WPV. Taking into account the risk assessment performed on the non-responders and their exclusion from the survey, it is finally considered that a 100% response rate had been achieved.  Eight facilities are identified to retain WPV in 2002, a number that gradually decreased to 4 (three research facilities and one production facility) from 2006 onwards.
    - "Demonstrating the Quality of Implementing Polio Laboratory Containment Requirements". Report Number D/2004/2505/03 (PDF file: report without annexes). This report, drafted on request by WHO in October 2003, aims at documenting the thoroughness and accuracy of conducting the Laboratory Survey and establishing the National Inventory of laboratories that wish to retain wild poliovirus infectious.
    - Sneyers M, Herman P and Moens W. Polio eradication and laboratory containment program of wild polioviruses in Belgium: Laboratory survey and inventory phase. Archives of Public Health 2005, 63 : 57-65.
    - Joint Containment - Polio Labnet WHO/EURO Meeting. St. Julians, Malta, 20-22 February 2007: Poliovirus Laboratory Containment Activities - Belgian Experience (power point presentation, PDF file).
    - Mendes Da Costa E, Pauwels K, Sabbe M (2015). Annual polio report for the European Regional Certification Commission for the year 2014. Royal library of Belgium Deposit Number D/2015/2505/39.
  • 2013: The WHO executive Board endorses the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, which accounts for the parallel pursuit of wild poliovirus eradication and cVDPV elimination. cVDPV elimination is considered important because, while no WPV type 2 have been reported globally since 1999, OPV type 2 accounted for 90% of the cVDPV in 2013.
  • 5 May 2014: The Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) declares the international spread of poliovirus a public health emergency of international concern (WHO statement on the meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee concerning the international spread of wild poliovirus).
  • 2014: A strategic plan aligning the containment of polioviruses with the major milestones and timelines of the WHO Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013?|2018 is finalized. As a result of this, the WHO issues a 3rd edition of its Global Action Plan (GAP III) defining a strategy to minimize poliovirus facility-associated risk after type-specific eradication of wild polioviruses and sequential cessation of routine OPV use.
  • 25 May 2015: The World Health Assembly endorses a resolution on poliomyelitis (WHA68.3), and with it, the Global Action Plan (GAPIII) for poliovirus containment.
  • 17 June 2015: The Biosafety and Biotechnology Unit (SBB) organises a workshop meeting convening relevant competent authorities to discuss the policy of containment of polioviruses in Belgium in view of the GAP III requirements. A possible outcome may be the set-up of a legal framework to effectively prohibit retention and subsequent acquisition of poliovirus materials in all non-essential facilities.