Cholera: under diagnosis and differentiation from other diarrhoeal diseases

J Travel Med. 2018 May 1;25(suppl_1):S46-S51. doi: 10.1093/jtm/tay017.


Background: Globally 1.4 billion people are at risk from cholera in countries where the disease is endemic, with an estimated 2.8 million cases annually. The disease is significantly under reported due to economic, social and political disincentives as well as poor laboratory resources and epidemiological surveillance in those regions. In addition, identification of cholera from other diarrhoeal causes is often difficult due to shared pathology and symptoms with few reported cases in travellers from Northern Europe.

Methods: A search of PubMed and Ovid Medline for publications on cholera diagnosis from 2010 through 2017 was conducted. Search terms included were cholera, Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), multiplex PCR and diagnosis of diarrhoea. Studies were included if they are published in English, French or Spanish.

Results: An increase of RDT study publications for diarrhoeal disease and attempted test validations were seen over the publication period. RDTs were noted as having varied selectivity and specificity, as well as associated costs and local resource requirements that can prohibit their use.

Conclusions: Despite opportunities to employ RDTs with high selectivity and specificity in epidemic areas, or in remote locations without access to health services, such tests are limited to surveillance use. This may represent a missed opportunity to discover the true global presence of Vibrio cholerae and its role in all cause diarrhoeal disease in underdeveloped countries and in travellers to those areas. The wider applicability of RDTs may also represent an opportunity in the wider management of traveller's diarrhoea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholera / diagnosis*
  • Cholera / mortality
  • Diarrhea / diagnosis
  • Diarrhea / etiology*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / economics
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Travel-Related Illness*
  • Vibrio cholerae / classification
  • Vibrio cholerae / pathogenicity


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic