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Infect Immun. 2005 Oct;73(10):6577-83.

Reduction in capsular content and enhanced bacterial susceptibility to serum killing of Vibrio cholerae O139 associated with the 2002 cholera epidemic in Bangladesh.

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  • 1International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Dhaka.


Vibrio cholerae O139 emerged in 1992 as a major cause of epidemic cholera. However, the incidence of disease due to this new serogroup subsequently decreased for almost a decade. In April 2002, there was a dramatic resurgence of V. cholerae O139 in Bangladesh. We compared the phenotypic properties of the bacterial isolates and the immunological responses in patients with disease due to V. cholerae O139 during the 2002 epidemic with those dating to the emergence of this disease in 1993 to 1995. Strains isolated from patients in the two time periods were compared with respect to capsular polysaccharide, their resistance to the bactericidal effect of serum, and their capacity to be used as target strains in complement-mediated vibriocidal assays. Phase-contrast microscopy showed that strains isolated in 2002 had less capsular material than those isolated from 1993 to 1995 (P = <0.001), a finding confirmed by electron microscopic studies. Strains isolated in 2002 were more susceptible to the bactericidal activity of serum compared to strains from 1993 to 1995 (P = 0.013). Compared to results using a standard O139 strain, a modified vibriocidal assay utilizing a 2002 strain, CIRS 134, as the target organism detected higher vibriocidal responses in both O139-infected cholera patients as well as O139 vaccine recipients. The vibriocidal assay utilizing the less encapsulated 2002 strain, CIRS 134, is a more sensitive indicator of adaptive immune responses to recent infection with V. cholerae O139. Consequently, this assay may be useful in studies of both O139-infected patients and recipients of O139 vaccines.

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