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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Feb 4;100(3):1304-9. Epub 2003 Jan 21.

Emergence and evolution of Vibrio cholerae O139.

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Laboratory Sciences Division, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Mohakhali, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh.


The emergence of Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal during 1992-1993 was associated with large epidemics of cholera in India and Bangladesh and, initially, with a total displacement of the existing V. cholerae O1 strains. However, the O1 strains reemerged in 1994 and initiated a series of disappearance and reemergence of either of the two serogroups that was associated with temporal genetic and phenotypic changes sustained by the strains. Since the initial emergence of the O139 vibrios, new variants of the pathogen derived from multiple progenitors have been isolated and characterized. The clinical and epidemiological characteristics of these strains have been studied. Rapid genetic reassortment in O139 strains appears to be a response to the changing epidemiology of V. cholerae O1 and also a strategy for persistence in competition with strains of the O1 serogroup. The emergence of V. cholerae O139 has provided a unique opportunity to witness genetic changes in V. cholerae that may be associated with displacement of an existing serogroup by a newly emerging one and, thus, provide new insights into the epidemiology of cholera. The genetic changes and natural selection involving both environmental and host factors are likely to influence profoundly the genetics, epidemiology, and evolution of toxigenic V. cholerae, not only in the Ganges Delta region of India and Bangladesh, but also in other areas of endemic and epidemic cholera.

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