Association Affairs

Global Climate and Infectious Disease: The Cholera Paradigm*

Science  20 Dec 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5295, pp. 2025-2031
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5295.2025

Summary

The origin of cholera has been elusive, even though scientific evidence clearly shows it is a waterborne disease. However, standard bacteriological procedures for isolation of the cholera vibrio from environmental samples, including water, between epidemics generally were unsuccessful. Vibrio cholerae, a marine vibrio, requiring salt for growth, enters into a dormant, viable but nonculturable stage when conditions are unfavorable for growth and reproduction. The association of Vibrio cholerae with plankton, notably copepods, provides further evidence for the environmental origin of cholera, as well as an explanation for the sporadic and erratic occurrence of cholera epidemics. On a global scale, cholera epidemics can now be related to climate and climatic events, such as El Niño, as well as the global distribution of the plankton host. Remote sensing, with the use of satellite imagery, offers the potential for predicting conditions conducive to cholera outbreaks or epidemics.

  • * The text is modified from the President's lecture delivered at the 1996 AAAS Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition, Baltimore, MD.

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