Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) as potential vectors for the dispersal of Vibrio cholerae

Sivan Laviad -Shitrit, Tidhar Lev-Ari, Gadi Katzir, Yehonatan Sharaby, Ido Izhaki, Malka Halpern

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Vibrio cholerae is the cause of cholera, a devastating epidemic and pandemic disease. Despite its importance, the way of its global dissemination is unknown. V. cholerae is abundant in aquatic habitats and is known to be borne by copepods, chironomids and fishes. Our aim was to determine if fish-eating birds act as vectors in the spread of V. cholerae by consuming infected fish. We determined the existence of V. cholerae in the microbiome of 5/7 wild cormorants’ intestine. In three of these V. cholerae-positive wild cormorants, the presence of a gene for cholera toxin (ctxA) was detected. We subsequently tested eight captive, hand-reared cormorants, divided into two equal groups. Prior to the experiment, the feces of the cormorants were V. cholerae-negative. One group was fed exclusively on tilapias, which are naturally infected with V. cholerae, and the other was fed exclusively on goldfish or on koi that were V. cholerae-negative. We detected V. cholerae in the feces of the tilapia-fed, but not in the goldfish/koi-fed, cormorants. Hence, we demonstrate that fish-eating birds can be infected with V. cholerae from their fish prey. The large-scale movements of many fish-eating birds provide a potential mechanism for the global distribution of V. cholerae.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7973
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

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© 2017, The Author(s).

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