To establish the etiology of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP), isolates from the central nervous system (CNS) from eight patients with VAPP were compared with stool isolates from the same patients. The vaccine (Sabin) origin was checked for all of the available isolates. Unique and similar strains were recovered from paired stool and CNS samples for five of the eight VAPP cases and the three wild-type cases included in the study. In the remaining three VAPP cases, the stool samples and, in one case, the CNS samples contained mixtures of strains. In two of these cases an equivalent of the CNS isolate was found among the strains separated by plaque purification from stool mixtures, and in one case different strains were isolated from CNS and stool. This shows that the stool isolate in VAPP might not be always representative of the etiologic agent of the neurological disease. A wide variety of poliovirus vaccine genomic structures appeared to be implicated in the etiology of VAPP. Of nine CNS vaccine-derived strains, four were nonrecombinant and five were recombinant (vaccine/vaccine or even vaccine/nonvaccine). The neuropathogenic potential of the isolates was evaluated in transgenic mice sensitive to poliovirus. All of the CNS-isolated strains lost the attenuated phenotype of the Sabin strains. However, for half of them, the neurovirulence was lower than expected, suggesting that the degree of neurovirulence for transgenic mice is not necessarily correlated with the neuropathogenicity in humans
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