Environmental reservoirs of Vibrio cholerae and their role in cholera


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In the aquatic environment, Vibrio cholerae has been reported to be associated with a variety of living organisms, including animals with an exoskeleton of chitin, aquatic plants, protozoa, bivalves, waterbirds, as well as abiotic substrates (e.g. sediments). Most of these are well-known or putative environmental reservoirs for the bacterium, defined as places where the pathogen lives over time, with the potential to be released and to cause human infection. Environmental reservoirs also serve as V. cholerae disseminators and vectors. They can be responsible for the start of an epidemic, may be critical to cholera endemicity, and affect the evolution of pathogen virulence. To date, in addition to the generally recognized role of zooplankton as the largest environmental reservoir for V. cholerae, other environmental reservoirs play some role in cholera epidemiology by favouring persistence of the pathogen during inter-epidemic periods. Little is known about the ecological factors affecting V. cholerae survival in association with aquatic substrates. Studies aimed at these aspects, i.e. understanding how environmental reservoirs interact, are affected by climate, and contribute to disease epidemiology, will be useful for understanding global implications of V. cholerae and the disease cholera.