Background: Pakistan currently provides a substantial challenge to global polio eradication, having contributed to 73% of reported poliomyelitis in 2015 and 54% in 2016. A better understanding of the risk factors and movement patterns that contribute to poliovirus transmission across Pakistan would support evidence-based planning for mass vaccination campaigns.
Methods and findings: We fit mixed-effects logistic regression models to routine surveillance data recording the presence of poliomyelitis associated with wild-type 1 poliovirus in districts of Pakistan over 6-month intervals between 2010 to 2016. To accurately capture the force of infection (FOI) between districts, we compared 6 models of population movement (adjacency, gravity, radiation, radiation based on population density, radiation based on travel times, and mobile-phone based). We used the best-fitting model (based on the Akaike Information Criterion [AIC]) to produce 6-month forecasts of poliomyelitis incidence. The odds of observing poliomyelitis decreased with improved routine or supplementary (campaign) immunisation coverage (multivariable odds ratio [OR] = 0.75, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.67-0.84; and OR = 0.75, 95% CI 0.66-0.85, respectively, for each 10% increase in coverage) and increased with a higher rate of reporting non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) (OR = 1.13, 95% CI 1.02-1.26 for a 1-unit increase in non-polio AFP per 100,000 persons aged <15 years). Estimated movement of poliovirus-infected individuals was associated with the incidence of poliomyelitis, with the radiation model of movement providing the best fit to the data. Six-month forecasts of poliomyelitis incidence by district for 2013-2016 showed good predictive ability (area under the curve range: 0.76-0.98). However, although the best-fitting movement model (radiation) was a significant determinant of poliomyelitis incidence, it did not improve the predictive ability of the multivariable model. Overall, in Pakistan the risk of polio cases was predicted to reduce between July-December 2016 and January-June 2017. The accuracy of the model may be limited by the small number of AFP cases in some districts.
Conclusions: Spatiotemporal variation in immunization performance and population movement patterns are important determinants of historical poliomyelitis incidence in Pakistan; however, movement dynamics were less influential in predicting future cases, at a time when the polio map is shrinking. Results from the regression models we present are being used to help plan vaccination campaigns and transit vaccination strategies in Pakistan.