A breakthrough by bioscientists in Australia could lead to the final eradication of polio.

World Health Organisation (WHO) funded research undertaken at the University of Queensland (UQ) has demonstrated that a nanopatch – a ‘microscopic vaccine delivery platform’ – developed at UQ is more effective in tackling poliovirus than either needles or syringes. Biotech Vaxxas, a spin-out from UQ, is commercialising the nanopatch vaccine for human use.

“Polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century, resulting in limb disfigurement and irreversible paralysis in tens of millions of cases,” said Professor Paul Young, Head of UQ’s School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences.

“This most recent study showed the nanopatch enhanced responses to all three types of inactivated poliovirus vaccines (IPV) – a necessary advancement from using the current live oral vaccine.

“We are extremely grateful to the WHO for providing funding to Vaxxas Pty Ltd, the biotechnology company commercialising the Nanopatch.”

Polio mainly impacts children under five. According to WHO, the number of cases has decreased by 99% in recent decades, dropping from 350,000 in 1988 to 37 reported cases last year. But it is still to be eradicated and WHO says that “failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.”