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Notice to Readers: National Laboratory Inventory as Part of Global Poliovirus Containment ---United States, June 2002

Since the initiation of the global poliomyelitis initiative in 1988 through 2001, the number of countries where polio is endemic decreased from 125 to 10, and the number of reported polio cases decreased >99%, from an estimated 350,000 to <1,000 (1). The Global Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Poliomyelitis, convened by the World Health Organization, will declare the world polio-free when all regions have documented the absence of wild poliovirus transmission for at least 3 consecutive years and when laboratories with wild poliovirus materials have implemented appropriate containment conditions (2).

In anticipation of the interruption of wild poliovirus transmission within the next few years, the United States has joined 122 other polio-free countries in taking steps toward wild poliovirus laboratory containment (3). In October 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the National Vaccine Program Office, and in partnership with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Justice, Energy, Interior, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation, will mail inventory forms to approximately 15,000 biomedical institutions/laboratories to alert them to the approaching eradication of polio, encourage destruction of all unneeded wild poliovirus materials, and develop a national inventory of laboratories retaining such materials.

The nationwide wild poliovirus inventory is a separate process from the Select Agent Registry process required by the Public Health and Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act of 2002, which will be implemented during the same period. The latter requires all persons with select agents to submit notification and ensure that all such agents are under appropriate laboratory containment. It is anticipated that laboratories will use the opportunity presented by the Select Agent notification to update their inventories of all infectious materials, including wild polioviruses. The wild poliovirus inventory is being conducted to prepare for laboratory containment before wild poliovirus transmission is interrupted. The purpose of containment is to reduce the risk for inadvertent reintroduction of polioviruses from the laboratory into the community. Information about all aspects of the inventory process, polioviruses, and the rationale for containment and responses to frequently asked questions are available at the Poliovirus Laboratory Containment Preparedness website at

The poliovirus inventory instruments and procedures were developed in collaboration with CDC, the National Institutes of Health, Emory University, Arizona State Public Health Laboratory, and Wyeth, a biopharmaceutical company. A pilot inventory approved by the Office of Management and Budget is under way in all relevant federal agencies and approximately 500 participating academic, state, private, and hospital laboratories/institutions. The pilot inventory will provide the framework for the nationwide inventory in October.

Laboratories are encouraged to destroy all unneeded infectious materials (e.g., wild poliovirus clinical materials, isolates, stocks, products of research, and materials from infected animals) and potential infectious materials (e.g., respiratory secretions, feces, and environmental samples collected for any purposes at a time and in a geographic area where wild poliovirus was known or suspected to be present). Laboratories electing to retain such materials will be listed on the national inventory and kept informed of progress toward interruption of poliovirus transmission. Beginning 1 year after detection of the last case of polio associated with wild poliovirus, laboratories undertaking activities involving wild poliovirus materials or potential wild poliovirus materials in permissive cells or animals will be notified to initiate high-containment (Biosafety Level [BSL-3] polio) measures. For all other activities involving potential wild poliovirus materials, current recommendations remain unchanged. For example, bacteriology and parasitology laboratories may continue to work with such materials under BSL-2 polio conditions, which require the use of biologic safety cabinets for manipulation of all such open materials and polio vaccination of personnel handling such materials (4).

The containment measures required for Global Certification will remain in force as long as universal vaccination continues. If vaccination discontinues in some or all countries after certification, global biosafety requirements for wild poliovirus materials, oral polio vaccine--like viruses, and potential oral polio vaccine infectious materials could become more stringent in keeping with the increased consequences of virus transmission to the community (5).


  1. CDC. Progress toward global eradication of poliomyelitis, 2001. MMWR 2002;51:253--6.
  2. Department of Vaccines and Biologicals. Report of the third meeting of the Global Commission for the Certification of the Eradication of Polio, July 9, 1998. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1999 (Document no. WHO/EPI/GEN/981.17).
  3. CDC. Global progress towards laboratory containment of wild polioviruses, June 2001. MMWR 2001;50:620--3.
  4. World Health Organization. Global action plan for laboratory containment of wild polioviruses. 2nd ed. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 2002 (in press).
  5. Technical Consultative Group on Global Eradication of Poliomyelitis. "Endgame" issues for the global polio eradication initiative. Clin Infect Dis 2002;34:72--7.

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