Dr. Afsar Ali and UF research team demonstrate established environmental reservoirs of toxigenic V. cholerae in Haiti

Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O1, responsible for epidemic cholera, was accidentally introduced in Haiti in October, 2010. Since its introduction, more than 700,000 cases have been reported with over 8,000 deaths. V. cholerae is ubiquitous to aquatic environments, and humans acquire the infection upon consumption of food and/or water contaminated with the bacterium.  Detection of V. cholerae from aquatic reservoirs is a key to predicting when and where cholera will occur, permitting prompt cholera intervention strategies to be undertaken. However, for reasons not clearly understood, the isolation of V. cholerae from aquatic environments remains challenging. While cholera is still continuing in Haiti, several large scale investigations resulted in minimal or no isolation of toxigenic V. cholerae from possible aquatic reservoirs in Haiti. A team led by Afsar Ali, a research associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Global Health, College of Public Health and Health Professions, and Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) at the University of Florida, has successfully isolated toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains, by modifying existing V. cholerae enrichment techniques, from multiple environmental sites in the Gressier/Leagone regions of Haiti. Of note, the UF research team was able to isolate V. cholerae using 1.5-mL water samples, rather than the large volumes used in earlier studies.  UF researchers’ findings are the first to clearly demonstrate that toxigenic V. cholerae has established environmental reservoirs in Haiti that may lead to cholera endemicity in that country. The findings of this study have been published in the Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) journal which can be found here (Alam et al). The results of this study could have far-reaching implications in the monitoring of toxigenic V. cholerae in Haiti and other cholera endemic countries, contributing to our ability to predict cholera outbreaks and, in turn, permit early implementation of control strategies.


Alam MT, Weppelmann TA, Weber CD, Johnson JA, Rashid MH, Birch CS, et al. Monitoring water sources for environmental reservoirs of toxigenic Vibrio choleraeO1, Haiti. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 Mar [date cited]. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2003.131293External Web Site Icon