Characterising the costs of the Global Polio Laboratory Network: a survey-based analysis

BMJ Open. 2019 Jan 21;9(1):e023290. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023290.


Objective: To characterise the costs, including for environmental surveillance (ES), of the Global Polio Laboratory Network (GPLN) that provides laboratory support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

Design and participants: We conducted a survey of the network across 92 countries of the 146 GPLN laboratories plus three non-GPLN laboratories that concentrate environmental samples to collect information about their activities, characteristics and costs during 2016. We estimate the total costs using regression of reported responses and complementing the findings with GPEI data.

Results: We received responses from 132 (89%) of the 149 laboratories, with variable response rates for individual questions. We estimate that processing samples of patients with acute flaccid paralysis leads to total costs of approximately $28 million per year (2016 US$) based on extrapolation from reported costs of $16 million, of which 61% were supported by internal (national) funds. Fifty-nine (45%) of the 132 responding laboratories reported supporting ES and we estimate an additional $5.3 million of recurring costs for ES activities performed by the laboratories. The reported costs do not include an estimated additional $10 million of annual global and regional costs to coordinate and support the GPLN. On average, the staff supported by funding for polio in the responding laboratories spent 30% of their time on non-polio activities. We estimate total costs for laboratory support of approximately $43 million (note that this estimate does not include any field or other non-laboratory costs of polio surveillance).

Conclusions: Although countries contribute significantly to the GPLN financing, many laboratories currently depend on GPEI funds, and these laboratories also support the laboratory component of surveillance activities for other diseases. Sustaining critical global surveillance for polioviruses and transitioning support for other disease programmes will require continued significant funding after polio certification.

Keywords: cost; eradication; global health; poliovirus; surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Global Health / economics*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / economics
  • International Cooperation*
  • Laboratories / economics*
  • Poliomyelitis* / diagnosis
  • Poliomyelitis* / economics
  • Poliomyelitis* / prevention & control
  • Poliovirus Vaccines / economics
  • Public Health / economics
  • Risk Management
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Poliovirus Vaccines