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To support poliomyelitis eradication in Pakistan, environmental surveillance (ES) of wastewater has been expanded alongside surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP). ES is a relatively new method of surveillance, and the population sensitivity of detecting poliovirus within endemic settings requires estimation.
Data for wild serotype 1 poliovirus from AFP and ES from January 2011 to September 2015 from 14 districts in Pakistan were analysed using a multi-state model framework. This framework was used to estimate the sensitivity of poliovirus detection from each surveillance source and parameters such as the duration of infection within a community.
The location and timing of poliomyelitis cases showed spatial and temporal variability. The sensitivity of AFP surveillance to detect serotype 1 poliovirus infection in a district and its neighbours per month was on average 30.0% (95% CI 24.8–35.8) and increased with the incidence of poliomyelitis cases. The average population sensitivity of a single environmental sample was 59.4% (95% CI 55.4–63.0), with significant variation in site-specific estimates (median varied from 33.3–79.2%). The combined population sensitivity of environmental and AFP surveillance in a given month was on average 98.1% (95% CI 97.2–98.7), assuming four samples per month for each site.
ES can be a highly sensitive supplement to AFP surveillance in areas with converging sewage systems. As ES for poliovirus is expanded, it will be important to identify factors associated with variation in site sensitivity, leading to improved site selection and surveillance system performance.