Characterization of Vibrio cholerae O1 isolates responsible for cholera outbreaks in Kenya between 1975 and 2017

Microbiol Immunol. 2019 Sep;63(9):350-358. doi: 10.1111/1348-0421.12731. Epub 2019 Aug 12.


Kenya is endemic for cholera with different waves of outbreaks having been documented since 1971. In recent years, new variants of Vibrio cholerae O1 have emerged and have replaced most of the traditional El Tor biotype globally. These strains also appear to have increased virulence, and it is important to describe and document their phenotypic and genotypic traits. This study characterized 146 V. cholerae O1 isolates from cholera outbreaks that occurred in Kenya between 1975 and 2017. Our study reports that the 1975-1984 strains had typical classical or El Tor biotype characters. New variants of V. cholerae O1 having traits of both classical and El Tor biotypes were observed from 2007 with all strains isolated between 2015 and 2017 being sensitive to polymyxin B and carrying both classical and El Tor type ctxB. All strains were resistant to Phage IV and harbored rstR, rtxC, hlyA, rtxA and tcpA genes specific for El Tor biotype indicating that the strains had an El Tor backbone. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) genotyping differentiated the isolates into 14 pulsotypes. The clustering also corresponded with the year of isolation signifying that the cholera outbreaks occurred as separate waves of different genetic fingerprints exhibiting different genotypic and phenotypic characteristics. The emergence and prevalence of V. cholerae O1 strains carrying El Tor type and classical type ctxB in Kenya are reported. These strains have replaced the typical El Tor biotype in Kenya and are potentially more virulent and easily transmitted within the population.

Keywords: Vibrio cholerae O1; biotyping; cholera outbreaks; pulsed field gel electrophoresis.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / methods
  • Cholera / epidemiology*
  • Cholera / microbiology*
  • Cholera Toxin / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Phenotype
  • Polymyxin B / pharmacology
  • Vibrio cholerae O1 / classification*
  • Vibrio cholerae O1 / drug effects
  • Vibrio cholerae O1 / genetics*
  • Vibrio cholerae O1 / isolation & purification*
  • Virulence / genetics
  • Virulence Factors / genetics


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Virulence Factors
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Polymyxin B