How PATH is helping prevent outbreaks of diseases like polio with wastewater surveillance

PATH experts are part of a team behind wastewater surveillance of polio in countries around the globe.

Cropped_ Environmental surveillance

A sampling team at a Pakistan site processing collects wastewater through the bag-mediated filtration system. PATH/Dr. David Boyle.

The world is on the brink of eliminating polio. But the highly infectious virus, which spreads through feces, has recently been detected in Israel, Malawi, Mozambique, Ukraine, and, the United States, and the United Kingdom for the first time in 40 years, providing evidence that gains are fragile. Even after infection, symptoms are typically slow to appear—which can allow poliovirus to circulate undetected for weeks.

With poliovirus shed in feces by the symptomatic and asymptomatic alike, environmental surveillance (also called wastewater-based epidemiology) is a powerful tool to help identify and control the virus. Because virus “shedding” begins soon after infection and often long before symptoms appear, sewage and wastewater provides a real-time view of trends in community infection.

Wastewater surveillance programs could be the next big public health innovation—thanks to PATH, they are already in use in countries around the world.

PATH is part of a team working on environmental surveillance of sewage systems, fecal sludge, and impacted surface water to monitor communities for infectious diseases such as polio and quickly provide insights into the circulation of the virus to inform public health decision-making.

Contact us to speak to one of our PATH experts advancing polio detection, prevention, and treatment around the world.

Local work, global support

Thank you to the many partners around the world supporting this work. Without you, innovative programs like these would not be possible.

Environment and Public Health Organization (Nepal)

Institute for Disease Modeling (US)

KWR Water Research Institute (Netherlands)

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK)

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme (Malawi)

Michigan State University (US)

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (Australia)

The Aga Khan University (Pakistan)

Tribhuvan University (Nepal)

Tulane University (US)

Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

University of California, Merced (US)

University of Washington (US)

Venthic Technologies (Greece)

Yale University (US)