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Microbiol Immunol. 2002;46(2):59-66.

Molecular ecology of toxigenic Vibrio cholerae.

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Molecular Genetics Laboratory, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka.


Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae is the etiological agent of cholera, an acute dehydrating diarrhea that occurs in epidemic form in many developing countries. Although V. cholerae is a human pathogen, aquatic ecosystems are major habitats of Vibrio species, which includes both pathogenic and nonpathogenic strains that vary in their virulence gene content. V. cholerae belonging to the 01 and 0139 serogroups is commonly known to carry a set of virulence genes necessary for pathogenesis in humans. Recent studies have indicated that virulence genes or their homologues are also dispersed among environmental strains of V. cholerae belonging to diverse serogroups, which appear to constitute an environmental reservoir of virulence genes. Although the definitive roles of the virulence-associated factors in the environment, and the environmental selection pressures for V. cholerae-carrying virulence genes or their homologues is not clear, the potential for origination of new epidemic strains from environmental progenitors seems real. It is likely that the aquatic environment harbors different virulence-associated genes scattered among environmental vibrios, which possess a lower virulence potential than the epidemic strains. The ecosystem comprising the aquatic environment, V. cholerae, genetic elements mediating gene transfer, and the mammalian host appears to support the clustering of critical virulence genes in a proper combination leading to the origination of new V. cholerae strains with epidemic potential.

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