Accumulating evidence suggests that some waterbird species are potential vectors of Vibrio cholerae

Sivan Laviad-Shitrit, Ido Izhaki, Malka Halpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vibrio cholerae is the causative agent of cholera, a life-threatening diarrheal disease. Cholera causes epidemics and pandemics, but the ways this disease spreads worldwide is still unclear. This review highlights a relatively new hypothesis regarding the way V. cholerae can be globally dispersed. Copepods and chironomids are natural reservoirs of V. cholerae and are part of different fish species’ diet. Furthermore, V. cholerae inhabits marine and freshwater fish species. Waterbird species feed on fish or on small invertebrates such as copepods and chironomids. Waterbirds have also been found to carry living copepods and/ or chironomids internally or externally from one waterbody to another. All of the above points to the fact that some waterbird species might be vectors of V. cholerae. Indeed, we and others have found evidence for the presence of V. cholerae non-O1 as well as O1 in waterbird cloacal swabs, feces, and intestine samples. Moreover, hand-reared cormorants that were fed on tilapia, a fish that naturally carries V. cholerae, became infected with this bacterial species, demonstrating that V. cholerae can be transferred to cormorants from their fish prey. Great cormorants as well as other waterbird species can cover distances of up to 1,000 km/day and thus may potentially transfer V. cholerae in a short time across and between continents. We hope this review will inspire further studies regarding the understanding of the waterbirds’ role in the global dissemination of V. cholerae.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007814
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2019 Laviad-Shitrit et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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