Airdate: Sep 25, 2017
Scientist: Peter Vikesland
There are three countries in the world where polio is still found.
Scientists are facing the challenging of trying to rid the world of polio. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Vikesland: Well, polio is something that has for the most part been eradicated across the plant. But theres at least three counties where it's still endemic: Pakistan, Afghanistan and I believe Nigeria.
Peter Vikesland is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.
Vikesland: Polio is essentially a disease that people that have it - they may not know that they have it. And so that there are fairly large percentages of the population in some of these countries that have polio but don't show any exterior signs of having it.
The issue with polio is that the vaccine when it's orally administrated, it still has some potential to cause polio-like symptoms. And anybody that's been vaccinated has the capacity to release polio in their feces when it goes into waste water. And when it's in that form, it can be disseminated in the environment. So the question is how do you detect poliovirus in a wastewater stream, and how do you do it on a cost effective basis, where you're out in the middle of a peri-urban environment and you're trying to find and detect something that's very hard to find, but you want to do it in the field and you want to do it cost-effectively.
With the help of nanotechnology, professor Vikesland and his colleagues are finding ways to detect polio in difficult field conditions. We'll find out more in our next program. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. You can hear this and previous programs on our podcast.