Protection from cholera by adding lime juice to food – results from community and laboratory studies in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Authors


correspondence Amabelia Rodrigues, Projecto de Saúde de Bandim, Apartado 861, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. E-mail: psb@sol.gtelecom.gw

Abstract

Summary Epidemiological studies have shown that food plays an important role in the transmission of Vibrio cholerae, and different foods have been incriminated in many epidemic outbreaks of cholera. Storing contaminated meals at ambient temperatures allows growth of V. cholerae. Some ingredients such as lime juice may inhibit the survival of V. cholerae in foods. During an epidemic caused by V. cholerae O1 in Guinea-Bissau in 1996, a case control study was conducted in the capital Bissau, the main affected region with an attack rate of 7.4%. Cases were hospitalized patients and controls were matched for area, gender and age. Lime juice in the sauce eaten with rice gave a strong protective effect (odds ratio [OR] = 0.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.17–0.56), and tomato sauce was also protective (OR = 0.36, 95% CI = 0.24–0.54). On the other hand, use of a bucket for storage of water in the house was associated with increased risk (OR = 4.4, CI = 2.21–8.74). Laboratory experiments to elucidate the inhibitory effect of different concentrations of lime juice on survival of V. cholerae in meals showed that V. cholerae thrives in rice with peanut sauce, but lime juice inhibited its growth. Since lime juice is a common ingredient of sauces, its use should be further encouraged to prevent foodborne transmission in the household during cholera outbreaks.

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