Clonal transmission, dual peak, and off-season cholera in Bangladesh

TitleClonal transmission, dual peak, and off-season cholera in Bangladesh
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAlam M, Islam A, Bhuiyan NA, Rahim N, Hossain A, Khan GY, Ahmed D, Watanabe H, Izumiya H, Faruque ASG, Colwell RR
JournalInfection Ecology & Epidemiology
Date Published08/2011

Vibrio cholerae is an estuarine bacterium associated with a single peak of cholera (March–May) in coastal villages of Bangladesh. For an unknown reason, however, cholera occurs in a unique dual peak (March–May and September–November) pattern in the city of Dhaka that is bordered by a heavily polluted freshwater river system and flood embankment. In August 2007, extreme flooding was accompanied by an unusually severe diarrhea outbreak in Dhaka that resulted in a record high illness. This study was aimed to understand the unusual outbreak and if it was related to the circulation of a new V. cholerae clone. Nineteen V. cholerae isolated during the peak of the 2007 outbreak were subjected to extensive phenotypic and molecular analyses, including multi-locus genetic screening by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), sequence-typing of the ctxB gene, and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Factors associated with the unusual incidence of cholera were determined and analysis of the disease severity was done. Overall, microbiological and molecular data confirmed that the hypervirulent V. cholerae was O1 biotype El Tor (ET) that possessed cholera toxin (CT) of the classical biotype. The PFGE (NotI) and dendrogram clustering confirmed that the strains were clonal and related to the pre-2007 variant ET from Dhaka and Matlab and resembled one of two distinct clones of the variant ET confirmed to be present in the estuarine ecosystem of Bangladesh. Results of the analyses of both diarrheal case data for three consecutive years (2006–2008) and regional hydroclimatology over three decades (1980–2009) clearly indicate that the pattern of cholera occurring in Dhaka, and not seen at other endemic sites, was associated with flood waters transmitting the infectious clone circulating via the fecal-oral route during and between the dual seasonal cholera peaks in Dhaka. Circular river systems and flood embankment likely facilitate transmission of infectious V. cholerae throughout the year that leads to both sudden and off-season outbreaks in the densely populated urban ecosystem of Dhaka. Clonal recycling of hybrid El Tor with increasing virulence in a changing climate and in a region with a growing urban population represents a serious public health concern for Bangladesh.