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Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Slowing of polio in Pakistan spurs hope for global eradication

By Jason Gale
Bloomberg News

ATLANTA — Polio cases caused by one of two circulating strains of poliomyelitis virus weren't reported in Pakistan in six months, speeding global eradication of the crippling disease.

Type-3 polio is close to being eliminated in Pakistan, one of three countries in the world where transmission has never been interrupted, researchers said in presentations Tuesday at a medical meeting in Atlanta.

"There have not been any Type-3 cases reported for six months, which is the longest gap in incidence there to date," Steven Wassilak, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in a statement. Globally, 177 polio cases were identified from January to October 2012, compared with 502 during the same period last year. Fighting the paralyzing disease has been challenging in Pakistan, where a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor was injured in July in a gun attack in Karachi. He was returning from supervising a polio-vaccination campaign — a program the Taliban have opposed elsewhere in the country.

The attack in the southern port city of Karachi was a month after Pakistan's Taliban guerrilla movement said it would oppose polio immunization in the country's northwestern tribal areas of North and South Waziristan to protest missile strikes by U.S. unmanned drone aircraft.

About 250,000 children in tribal areas located along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan won't get the vaccine because of the opposition by the Taliban, the BBC reported July 16, citing WHO officials it didn't identify.

Polio control is also being hindered in urban Karachi by parents refusing to allow vaccinators to give their children the two drops of the oral vaccine that will prevent infection, said Anita Zaidi, a pediatrician at the city's Aga Khan University.

India hasn't reported a polio infection since January 2011 and the WHO's Southeast Asia region will be certified polio-free in 2014 if no new cases arise, Wassilak told the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Treatment found

that kills bedbugs

Bedbugs died after feeding on people treated with Merck's Stromectol, a treatment typically used against parasitic worms, in the first study to investigate the drug's potential to control the bloodsuckers.

Three out of five bedbugs died after blood meals from people who had taken Stromectol, also called ivermectin, three hours earlier, according to research presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta on Monday.

John Sheele, an emergency physician at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, who led the study, tested ivermectin, sold as Mectizan outside the United States, on himself and three colleagues over five bedbug blood meals.

Stromectol is used to treat diseases caused by worm parasites such as river blindness, and elephantiasis, or lymphatic filariasis. Sheele's research suggests its pesticidal properties may also fight bed-beg incursions, experienced by more than 400,000 New York City residents in 2009.

Bedbugs are small, flat insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep.


MUHAMMED MUHEISEN / AP
Pakistani health worker Arifa Asif, 27, left, gives a polio vaccine to a boy, while a group of women holding their children wait their turn, in an alley of a Christian neighborhood in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012.




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