'Trickery' brings hope of eradicating polio

SCIENTISTS in Yorkshire are developing a new type of vaccine that could eradicate polio by tricking the body into developing immunity against it.

The project, led by Leeds University and also involving Harvard and Oxford universities and the UK's National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, has been awarded $500,000 (316,000) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through the World Health Organisation.

It involves designing a hoax virus which behaves like the real polio virus to trigger the immune system but has no chance of causing the disease.

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Nicola Stonehouse, of the university's faculty of biological sciences, said: "What excites me about this project is that we're working towards a risk-free vaccine that will be essential for the complete eradication of polio from the globe."

As well as being safe to use, it would not need refrigeration and could be given as part of existing childhood vaccinations, she added.

Existing polio vaccines have reduced cases of the disease but it persists in around 15 countries.

The first stage of the research will focus on proving it works against the virus.

Prof Dave Rowlands, who is leading the research in Leeds, said: "We believe that if the project is successful, this new approach could help to completely eradicate this disease for good."