Treatment of severe cholera: a review of strategies to reduce stool output and volumes of rehydration fluid

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2017 May 1;111(5):204-210. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trx041.


Background: Severe cholera is a life-threatening illness of hypovolemic shock and metabolic acidosis due to rapid and profuse diarrheal fluid loss. Emergency life-saving therapy is i.v. saline, optionally supplemented with potassium and alkali to correct the fluid deficit, potassium losses and acidosis. After this initial rehydration, for the next 2 days ongoing stool losses are replaced with oral rehydration solution (ORS), which contains sodium chloride, potassium and alkali together with glucose or rice powder as a source of glucose to serve as a carrier for sodium.

Results: In actual field trials, antibiotics are given to reduce fluid requirements, but large volumes averaging about 7 liters of i.v. fluid followed by about 14 liters of ORS have been given to adult patients. Disturbing trends during therapy have included overhydration, hyponatremia and polyuria.

Conclusions: It is suggested that stool output and fluid requirements could be reduced, if borne out in future research, by avoiding overhydration by restricting ORS intake to match stool output and promoting intestinal reabsorption of luminal fluid by early introduction of glucose without salts into the intestine, more gradual correction of dehydration, giving mineralocorticoid and vasopressin, and infusing glucose or short-chain fatty acids into the proximal colon.

Keywords: Cholera; Cholera clinical trials; Cholera treatment; Oral rehydration solutions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidiarrheals / administration & dosage
  • Antidiarrheals / pharmacology
  • Antidiarrheals / therapeutic use*
  • Bicarbonates / administration & dosage
  • Bicarbonates / chemistry
  • Bicarbonates / therapeutic use
  • Cholera / complications*
  • Cholera / therapy
  • Defecation* / drug effects
  • Dehydration / etiology
  • Dehydration / therapy*
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control
  • Diarrhea / therapy*
  • Feces
  • Fluid Therapy / adverse effects
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glucose / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / etiology
  • Hyponatremia / prevention & control
  • Polyuria / etiology
  • Polyuria / prevention & control
  • Potassium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Potassium Chloride / chemistry
  • Potassium Chloride / therapeutic use
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use


  • Antidiarrheals
  • Bicarbonates
  • World Health Organization oral rehydration solution
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Potassium Chloride
  • Glucose