Cholera bug mutates to acquire flu qualities: scientists

Cholera bug mutates to acquire flu qualities: scientists

An international team that analysed the genome of 23 strains of cholera bugs has discovered that they will become more dangerous in future to infect a large number of people. The strains taken for analysis had infected the world in the past 98 years.
The team, led by Rita Cowell, former head of the US National Science Foundation, say the manner of the mutated cholera agents are similar to those observed typically in flu. This would also make the newer strain more virulent.

Public health workers should anticipate emergence of a new strain and prepare themselves accordingly, the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. “Comparative genome analysis show small changes in the bug's genetic structure particularly in the path that governs virulence and transmissibility," G Balakrish Nair, the Indian contributor to the research and director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Disease (NICD), Kolkata told Deccan Herald.

The world witnessed six cholera pandemics and is currently undergoing the seventh pandemic that began in 1961. Between 2006 and 2008, India reported 7254 cases of cholera. Though Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra contributed to the bulk of the infected cases, about 85 per cent of them were spread over five states in the country, including Karnataka.

Experts, however, say that the estimates grossly understate the seriousness of the condition in India. "Cholera is under-reported in the country," Nair admitted.
During an outbreak, any pathogen -be it cholera or flu- comes under collective pressure of immunity. Mutation in pathogens would enable the organism to deceive the immune system.  Observing the epidemic in India and Bangladesh in 1992, the NICED had reported that cholera strain O1 changes its outer jacket to become O139 to evade the body's immunity against it.

Nair warns that a similar mutation can happen again to infect more people.

H1N1 toll crosses 100 mark


The death count in the unrelenting swine flu pandemic has crossed the 100 mark after the virus claimed four more lives in three states. With three men dying in Pune and Bangalore and a woman succumbing in Dehradun, the countrywide toll due to infection now stands at 102. Maharashtra has the highest fatalities with 53 deaths.