The stomach produces acid potent enough to kill most microbes, a survival trait that people and other animals have preserved over time. However, some bacteria–including the one that causes cholera–regularly pass through this gauntlet to wreak havoc in the intestines. The result is severe diarrhea that can lead to fatal dehydration.
Scientists in the United States and Bangladesh report in the June 6 Nature that the cholera bacterium Vibrio cholerae, once it's exposed to the human digestive tract, transforms itself into a pathogen hundreds of times more infectious than the V. cholerae living in rivers and ponds.
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