Vibrio cholerae is a waterborne bacterium native to the aquatic environment. There are over 200 known serogroups yet only two cause cholera pandemics in humans. Direct contact of human sewage with drinking water, sea-born currents and marine transportation, represent modes of dissemination of the bacteria and thus the disease. The simultaneous cholera outbreaks that occur sometimes in distant localities within continental landmasses are puzzling. Here we present evidence that flying, non-biting midges (Diptera; Chironomidae), collected in the air, carry viable non-O1 non-O139 serogroups of V. cholerae. The association of V. cholerae with chironomid egg masses, which serve as a V. cholerae reservoir, was further confirmed. In simulated field experiments, we recorded the transfer of environmental V. cholerae by adult midges from the aquatic environment into bacteria-free water-pools. In laboratory experiments, flying adult midges that emerged from V. cholerae (O1 or O139) contaminated water transferred the green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged pathogenic bacteria from one laboratory flasks to another. Our findings show that aerial transfer by flying chironomids may play a role in the dissemination of V. cholerae in nature.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics