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Cohabitating-microbes

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Infections are the true beneficiaries of war

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History has repeatedly shown that contagion makes an easy bedfellow with human conflict.

Take the poliovirus outbreak in Syria - and Israel and Egypt too - caused by related strains that can be traced back to Pakistan.

War and insurgency provide the ideal conditions for bacteria and viruses to take a foothold, so it is little surprise that poliovirus has become entrenched - endemic - in Pakistan and Afghanistan and has now re-emerged in the Middle East.

Similarly in Africa, political obstruction to vaccination campaigns means that poliovirus continues to circulate in northern Nigeria and igniting an outbreak in war-torn Somalia and the wider Horn of Africa.

Many public health experts believe that the lack of vigorous vaccination programmes meant that this was an outbreak waiting to happen.

The evidence is clear. These viral strongholds are threatening the global polio eradication programme.

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