Many parts of the world are in the midst of a deadly pandemic of cholera, an extreme form of watery diarrhea. University of California (UC) at Riverside (UCR) scientists have discovered specific gut bacteria make some people resistant to cholera, a finding that could save lives. Cholera can kill within hours if left untreated, and it sickens as many as 4 million people a year. In a new article, published in the June 25, 2020 issue of Cell, researchers describe how gut bacteria help people resist the disease (https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)30631-0) (see graphic abstract of Cell article at left and in a larger view at the bottom of this story). The article is titled “Interpersonal Gut Microbiome Variation Drives Susceptibility and Resistance to Cholera Infection.” Bacteria live everywhere on the planet--including inside the human body. UCR microbiologist Ansel Hsiao, PhD, studies whether the bacteria living in our bodies, collectively known as the human microbiome, can protect people from diseases caused by external bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae, which lives in waterways and causes cholera. Dr. Hsiao’s team examined the gut microbiomes from people in Bangladesh, where many suffer from cholera as a result of contaminated food, water, and poor sanitation infrastructure. “When people get sick, the diarrhea gets flushed into water systems that people drink from, and it’s a negative cycle,” Dr. Hsiao explained. His team wanted to determine whether prior infections or other stresses, like malnutrition, make people more vulnerable, as compared to Americans who don’t face these same pressures. The findings surprised the group, which expected stressed Bangladeshi microbiomes would allow for higher rates of infection.
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