Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal - 10 years on

John, Albert M. ; Balakrish Nair, G. (2005) Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal - 10 years on Reviews in Medical Microbiology, 16 (4). pp. 135-143. ISSN 0954-139X

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A second aetiological agent of cholera, Vibrio cholerae O139 Bengal was identified in late 1992 when it caused large outbreaks of diarrhoea in India and Bangladesh. The new strain probably arose as a result of lateral transfer of genes encoding a novel somatic antigen and a capsule from an unknown bacterium to an O1 El Tor strain with the subsequent loss of genes encoding O1 somatic antigen. O139 produces a semi-rough type colony with a truncated lipopolysaccharide which contains a unique sugar, colitose. Otherwise, O139 and O1 are strikingly similar. The diseases produced by the two serogroups are indistinguishable. There is a moderate inflammatory response in cholera, and in spite of the possession of a capsule by O139, it is no more inflammatory than O1. A number of diagnostic tests have been developed for O139 that are modelled after tests for O1 including rapid tests for field use. O139 has spread to countries of south and south-east Asia, China and Russia. Currently, cholera is caused by both these serogroups in these countries with the O1 serogroup predominant. O139 continues to cause occasional local outbreaks in India and Bangladesh. Genotyping of isolates has shown circulation of multiple clones and their derivation from multiple progenitors. Although there have been changes in antibiogram with the resistance genes being carried on a constin, the strains remain susceptible to tetracycline, a preferred antibiotic for treatment. O139 carries a number of filamentous lysogenic and lytic phages and the latter have been utilized to develop a phage typing scheme. A number of environmental variables have been linked to the occurrence of cholera and lytic phages may determine the course of epidemics. Although the capsule confers serum resistance, vibriocidal antibody assay has been developed for O139. However, unlike in O1 cholera, serum vibriocidal antibody does not seem to correlate with protection against O139 infection. Promising O139 vaccines have been developed or are in the pipeline. It is too early to predict whether O139 will become the causative agent of 'the eighth pandemic of cholera'; it will require many years of monitoring and reporting from regions prone to cholera to find the answer.

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