Food as a vehicle of transmission of cholera

G. H. Rabbani, W. B. Greenough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cholera has been recognized as a killer disease since earliest time. Since 1817, six pandemics have swept over the world, and the seventh one is in progress. The disease is caused by infection of the small intestine by Vibrio cholerae Ol and O139 and is characterized by massive acute diarrhoea, vomiting, and dehydration: death occurs in severe, untreated cases. Cholera is a highly contagious disease, and is transmitted primarily by ingestion of faecally-contaminated water by susceptible persons. Besides water, foods have also been recognized as an important vehicle for transmission of cholera. Foods are likely to be faecally contaminated during preparation, particularly by infected food handlers in an unhygienic environment. The physicochemical characteristics of foods that support survival and growth of V. cholerae Ol and O139 include high-moisture content, neutral or an alkaline pH, low temperature, high-organic content, and absence of other competing bacteria. Seafoods, including fish, shellfish, crabs, oysters and clams, have all been incriminated in cholera outbreaks in many countries, including the United States and Australia. Contaminated rice, millet gruel, and vegetables have also been implicated in several outbreaks. Other foods, including fruits (except sour fruits), poultry, meat, and dairy products, have the potential of transmitting cholera. To reduce the risk of food-borne transmission of cholera, it is recommended that foods should be prepared, served, and eaten in an hygienic environment, free from faecal contamination. Proper cooking, storing, and re-heating of foods before eating, and hand-washing with safe water before eating and after defaecation are important safety measures for preventing food-borne transmission of cholera.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of diarrhoeal diseases research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1999


  • Cholera
  • Disease transmission
  • Food
  • Review literature
  • Vibrio cholerae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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