Rouse Award: James MacGillivray’s evaluation of polio eradication strategies
James MacGillivray (Upper Sixth) assessed the most important strategies in eradicating polio for his Rouse Award-winning project.
He decided to research the disease following the discovery that the polio virus had been detected in London sewage last year.
“I was really interested in this because I thought polio was a disease of the past,” said James, who plans to study medicine at university.
“However, it isn’t just as simple as trying to vaccinate as many people as possible because there are many different vaccines you can use that all have different advantages and disadvantages, so it makes it more complex as to the best strategy for the future.”
As part of his evaluation, James contacted Dr Javier Martin, one of the authors of the paper on the London sewage polio discovery in medical journal The Lancet, who he said had been “very helpful”.
In terms of vaccinations, James felt in the short term, oral polio vaccines should continue to be used in low-income countries and inactivated polio vaccines in high-income countries.
However, he added: “Novel oral polio vaccines are a very exciting initiative for the future and they will hopefully prove to be a key weapon in the fight against polio.”
James felt there needed to be an overall strategy for dealing with the disease and considered whether eradication was actually the solution.
He said: “If we aim for eradication, it could create a short-term perspective suggesting that the disease has nearly gone, creating programme fatigue.
“I concluded that we need to maintain high immunisation levels because of the high sub-clinical rate of the disease, meaning it can go undetected in a population for a long period of time.”
James was delighted to have received the Rouse Award, having enjoyed the research process along the way.
He added: “Being interviewed by the Rouse panel was a really great experience. I’d never spoken to Cambridge academics before and they asked me really deep questions that made me think about my project a bit more and provided different perspectives.”