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J Infect Dis. 2013 Nov 1;208 Suppl 1:S39-45. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit200.

Cholera outbreak in South Africa, 2008-2009: laboratory analysis of Vibrio cholerae O1 strains.

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Centre for Enteric Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Division in the National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg.



A total of 720 Vibrio cholerae O1 strains were recovered for investigation from an outbreak of cholera in South Africa between November 2008 and April 2009.


Strains were characterized by serotype testing. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Genetic diversity of 248 strains was investigated using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis. Extended characterization was performed on 90 strains. Molecular analysis included: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) identification of ctxA and tcpA genes, sequencing the ctxAB gene, and investigation of molecular mechanisms conferring antimicrobial resistance.


The majority of strains were characterized as serotype Ogawa. Strains showed multidrug resistance. Approximately 1.0% of strains displayed extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) activity. Strains showed very similar PFGE patterns. Ninety strains selected for extended characterization showed the following results: Strains possessed the cholera toxin (CT) and all were PCR positive for the tcpA-El Tor variant. Sequencing of the ctxB gene matched the B-1 allele. Strains harbored the SXT element. Strains that displayed ESBL activity possessed a 140-kilobase-pair plasmid that produced the TEM-63 β-lactamase. Nalidixic acid-resistant strains harbored mutations in GyrA (Ser83-Ile) and ParC (Ser85-Leu).


These data highlight the rapid development of antimicrobial resistance and spread of V. cholerae O1 El Tor variants expressing the classical CT within South Africa.


SXT element; South Africa; TEM-63 β-lactamase; Vibrio cholerae O1 El Tor variant; cholera outbreak; classical cholera toxin; multidrug-resistant

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