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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. Apr 2011; 5(4): e999.
Published online Apr 5, 2011. doi:  10.1371/journal.pntd.0000999
PMCID: PMC3071362

Impact of Rapid Urbanization on the Rates of Infection by Vibrio cholerae O1 and Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Rita R. Colwell, Editor



In Bangladesh, increases in cholera epidemics are being documented with a greater incidence and severity. The aim of this prospective study was to identify the prevalence and importance of V. cholerae O1 and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) as causal agents of severe diarrhea in a high diarrhea prone urban area in Dhaka city.


Systematic surveillance was carried out on all diarrheal patients admitted from Mirpur between March 2008 to February 2010 at the ICDDR, B hospital. Stool or rectal swabs were collected from every third diarrheal patient for microbiological evaluation.

Principal Findings

Of diarrheal patients attending the hospital from Mirpur, 41% suffered from severe dehydration with 39% requiring intravenous rehydration therapy. More diarrheal patients were above five years of age (64%) than those below five years of age (36%). About 60% of the patients above five years of age had severe dehydration compared with only 9% of patients under five years of age. The most prevalent pathogen isolated was Vibrio cholerae O1 (23%) followed by ETEC (11%). About 8% of cholera infection was seen in infants with the youngest children being one month of age while in the case of ETEC the rate was 11%. Of the isolated ETEC strains, the enterotoxin type were almost equally distributed; ST accounted for 31% of strains; LT/ST for 38% and LT for 31%.


V. cholerae O1 is the major bacterial pathogen and a cause of severe cholera disease in 23% of patients from Mirpur. This represents a socioeconomic group that best reflects the major areas of high cholera burden in the country. Vaccines that can target such high risk groups in the country and the region will hopefully be able to reduce the disease morbidity and the transmission of pathogens that impact the life and health of people.

Author Summary

Bangladesh is a country where acute dehydrating diarrhea or cholera is common and is seen at least two times every year and additionally in natural disasters. In addition cholera cases have increased in the country, especially in urban settings such as in the capital city, Dhaka, where the number of hospitalized patients with more severe disease has tremendously increased. In the present observation, we have concentrated on determining the occurrence of diarrhoea caused by the two most common bacterial agents V. cholerae O1 and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) in a densely populated, disease prone area Mirpur in Dhaka for two years from March 2008 to February 2010. Stool or rectal specimens from diarrheal patients coming to the ICDDR,B hospital from Mirpur were tested for the two bacterial pathogens. We found that V. cholerae O1 was the major bacterial pathogen and a cause of severe cholera disease in 23% of patients (2,647 of a total of 11,395 patients) from Mirpur. We surmise that cholera vaccines, as well as other public health tools that can target such high risk groups in the country, will be able to reduce the disease morbidity and the transmission of pathogens to improve the quality of life in urban settings.

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