Surveillance of poliomyelitis in Northern Italy: Results of acute flaccid paralysis surveillance and environmental surveillance, 2012–2015

Laura Pellegrinelli, Laura Bubba, Valeria Primache, Elena Pariani, Andrea Battistone, Roberto Delogu, Stefano Fiore, Sandro Binda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although in the last years poliovirus (PV) transmission has been reported at the lowest levels ever recorded, the spread of virus from endemic countries endures; the high levels of immigration flows across the Mediterranean Sea jeopardize Italy for PV reintroduction. The World Health Organization (WHO) strategic plan for global poliomyelitis (polio) eradication indicates the nationwide surveillance of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) as the gold standard for detecting cases of polio. In addition, the Environmental Surveillance (ES), seeking the presence of PV and Non-Polio Enterovirus (NPEV) in sewage, is recognized as a powerful tool to confirm PV circulation in absence of AFP cases, especially in polio-free countries. Here we report the results of AFP surveillance (AFPS) and ES in Lombardy (Northern Italy) from 2012 to 2015. Forty-eight AFP cases were identified during the study period. No AFP case was caused by PV infection. NPEVs were identified in 6.3% (3/48) of AFP cases. The annual AFP incidence rate was 0.87/100′000 children <15 y in 2012, 1.42/100′000 in 2013, 1.02/100′000 in 2014, and 0.47/100′000 in 2015; according to WHO indicators, the sensitivity of AFPS was adequate in 2013 and 2014. Completeness of case investigation raised progressively during the study period to achieve the WHO standards in 2014 (92.3%) and 2015 (100%). Completeness of follow-up increased from 72.7% in 2012 to 100% in 2014. In the framework of the ES conducted in Milan, 268 wastewater samples were collected from 2012 to 2015 and no PVs were isolated. In contrast, NPEVs were detected in 65.3% (175/268) of samples. All NPEVs characterized belonged to enterovirus species B: echovirus type 11, 6 and 3 were the most frequently detected viruses, representing 29.1% (41/141), 20.6% (29/141) and 9.2% (13/141) of genotyped NPEVs, respectively. Keeping strong and encouraging both AFPS and ES is crucial to ensure that PV will not return unnoticed in Italy - as well as in other polio-free countries - and, as a final point, to achieve the global polio eradication goal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-338
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • acute flaccid paralysis surveillance system
  • environmental surveillance system
  • non-polio enterovirus
  • Polio Eradication Initiative
  • poliovirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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