Algal blooms in the spread and persistence of cholera

Biosystems. 1993;31(2-3):209-21. doi: 10.1016/0303-2647(93)90050-m.


Cholera has been long associated with the seasonality of coastal algal blooms off Bangladesh. Using fluorescent antibody (FA) techniques, microbiologists have now identified a viable, non-cultivable form of Vibrio cholerae in a wide range of marine life, including cyanobacteria (Anabaena variabilis), diatoms (Skeletonema costatum), phaeophytes (Ascophyllum nodosum), in copepod molts, and in freshwater vascular aquatic plants (water hyacinths and duckweed). In unfavourable conditions V. cholerae assumes spore-like forms; with proper nutrients, pH and temperature, it reverts to a readily transmissible and infectious state. Nitrates and phosphates in sewage and fertilizers cause eutrophication, and scientists report an increase in intensity, duration and shifts in the biodiversity of algal blooms in many coastal, brackish and fresh waters worldwide. V. cholerae has been isolated from phyto- and zooplankton in marine and fresh waters near Lima, Peru. V. cholera 01, biotype El Tor, serotype Inaba, may have arrived in the Americas in the bilge of a Chinese freighter. There, in the abundant coastal sea life along the Latin American Pacific coast, nourished by the Humboldt current and eutrophication, it found a reservoir for surviving unfavourable conditions. It is hypothesized that the algae and Vibrio populations grew exponentially; consumed by fish, mollusks and crustacea, a heavy 'inoculum' of carriers infected with V. cholerae was generated and transported into multiple coastal communities.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholera / epidemiology*
  • Cholera / history
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Ecosystem
  • Environment
  • Eukaryota / growth & development
  • Eutrophication*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Seasons
  • Temperature
  • Vibrio cholerae / growth & development*
  • Vibrio cholerae / isolation & purification
  • Water Microbiology