Cholera pandemics are fueled by globe-trotting bacterial strains | Science News

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Cholera pandemics are fueled by globe-trotting bacterial strains

Insight into how the bug spreads could help stop it

7:00am, November 13, 2017
Haiti in 2010

TREAT, STAT  Rapid treatment to replenish fluids is crucial for cholera patients, like this young girl being taken to a health center in Haiti during the 2010 epidemic.

Cholera strains behind worldwide outbreaks of the deadly disease over the last five decades are jet-setters rather than homebodies.

It had been proposed that these cholera epidemics were homegrown, driven by local strains of Vibrio cholerae living in aquatic ecosystems. But DNA fingerprints of the V. cholerae strains behind recent large outbreaks in Africa and Latin America were more closely related to South Asian strains than local ones, according to two papers published in the Nov. 10 Science.

This evidence that the guilty strains traveled from abroad could guide public health efforts, the researchers say. “If you don’t understand how the bug spreads, then it’s very difficult to try to stop the bug,” says François-Xavier Weill, a clinical microbiologist at the Institut Pasteur in Paris who coauthored both papers.

People are exposed to V. cholerae by consuming water or food contaminated by the bacteria.

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