Chironomid egg masses as a natural reservoir of Vibrio cholerae non-O1 and non-O139 in freshwater habitats

M. Halpern, Y. B. Broza, S. Mittler, E. Arakawa, M. Broza

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Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by the gram-negative bacterium Vibrio cholerae, and an estimated 120,000 deaths from cholera occur globally every year. The natural reservoir of the bacterium is environmental. A recent report indicated an association between V. cholerae and chironomid egg masses. Chironomids, the "non-biting midges" (Diptera; Chironomidae), are the most widely distributed and frequently the most abundant insects in freshwater. Females attach egg masses, each containing hundreds of eggs encased in a layer of gelatin, to the water's edge where bacteria are abundant and may encounter the nutrient-rich substrate. Here we report the isolation of non-O1 and non-O139 V. cholerae from chironomid egg masses from different freshwater bodies in Israel, India, and Africa. In a yearly survey in Israel, chironomid populations were found to peak biannually, and it seemed that those peaks were followed by subsequent bacterial growth and disappearance during the winter in the Mediterranean region. The bacterial population rose as water temperature surpassed 25°C. Thirty-five different serogroups of V. cholerae were identified among the bacteria isolated from chironomids, demonstrating population heterogeneity. Two strains of V. cholerae O37 and O201 that were isolated from chironomid egg masses in Zanzibar Island were NAG-ST positive. Our findings support the hypothesis that the association found between chironomids and the cholera bacteria is not a rare coincidence, indicating that chironomid egg masses may serve as yet another potential reservoir for V. cholerae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Soil Science
  • Ecology


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