Background: Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) is the most common clinical presentation of acute poliovirus infection, occurring in 0.1–1% of infected cases. AFP surveillance has been used world-wide to monitor the control and eradication of circulating wild poliovirus. This study aims to review the significance of all enteroviruses, including polioviruses, isolated from patients with AFP in Australia between 1996 and 2004.
Methods: We undertook a retrospective review of all notified cases of AFP, aged 0–15 years and resident in Australia at the time of notification. We reviewed all available clinical and virological data for these cases and all records of the Polio Expert Committee, which determined the final classification for all cases.
Results: There were 335 notified cases that satisfied the case definition for AFP, 162 (48%) of whom had at least one faecal sample tested. Enteroviruses isolated from the faeces of 26 (16%) of the 162 cases were Coxsackie A24, Coxsackie B5, enterovirus 71, enterovirus 75, echovirus 9, echovirus 11 and echovirus 18. In addition, one or more polioviruses were isolated from the faeces of seven patients. Six of seven polioviruses were characterised as Sabin-like, one was not characterised, but all were considered to be incidental isolates. Five of these cases were classified as infant botulism, one case as transverse myelitis and one as a focal mononeuropathy.
Conclusion: With the eradication of circulating wild polioviruses, other enteroviruses are being more commonly identified as the cause of polio-like illnesses. In the polio end game, when there is increased testing for polioviruses, it is important to consider infant botulism as a differential diagnosis in cases presenting with AFP.