Isolation of Vaccine-Like Poliovirus Strains in Sewage Samples From the United Kingdom

J Infect Dis. 2018 Mar 28;217(8):1222-1230. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jix667.


Background: Environmental surveillance (ES) is a sensitive method for detecting human enterovirus (HEV) circulation, and it is used worldwide to support global polio eradication. We describe a novel ES approach using next-generation sequencing (NGS) to identify HEVs in sewage samples collected in London, United Kingdom, from June 2016 to May 2017.

Methods: Two different methods were used to process raw sewage specimens: a 2-phase aqueous separation system and size exclusion by filtration and centrifugation. HEVs were isolated using cell cultures and analyzed using NGS.

Results: Type 1 and 3 vaccine-like poliovirus (PV) strains were detected in samples collected from September 2016 through January 2017. NGS analysis allowed us to rapidly obtain whole-genome sequences of PV and non-PV HEV strains. As many as 6 virus strains from different HEV serotypes were identified in a single cell culture flask. PV isolates contained only a small number of mutations from vaccine strains commonly seen in early isolates from vaccinees.

Conclusions: Our ES setup has high sensitivity for polio and non-PV HEV detection, generating nearly whole-genome sequence information. Such ES systems provide critical information to assist the polio eradication endgame and contribute to the improvement of our understanding of HEV circulation patterns in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques
  • Poliovirus / classification*
  • Poliovirus / genetics*
  • Poliovirus / isolation & purification
  • Poliovirus Vaccines*
  • Sewage / virology*
  • United Kingdom


  • Poliovirus Vaccines
  • Sewage