Self-limiting nature of seasonal cholera epidemics: Role of host-mediated amplification of phage

Shah M. Faruque, M. Johirul Islam, Qazi Shafi Ahmad, A. S.G. Faruque, David A. Sack, G. Balakrish Nair, John J. Mekalanos

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151 Scopus citations


Phage predation of Vibrio cholerae has recently been reported to be a factor that influences seasonal epidemics of cholera in Bangladesh. To understand more about this phenomenon, we studied the dynamics of the V. cholerae-phage interaction during a recent epidemic in Dhaka. Because the outbreak strain causing this epidemic was resistant to multiple antibiotics, including streptomycin, we used a selective medium containing streptomycin to monitor accurately the abundance of this strain in the environment. The changing prevalence in the environment of the epidemic V. cholerae O1 strain and a particular lytic cholera phage (JSF4) to which it was sensitive was measured every 48-72 h for 17 weeks. We also monitored the incidence of phage excretion in stools of 387 cholera patients during the epidemic. The peak of the epidemic was preceded by high V. cholerae prevalence in the environment and was followed by high JSF4 phage levels as the epidemic ended. The buildup to the phage peak in the environment coincided with increasing excretion of the same phage in the stools of cholera patients. These results suggest that patients toward the end of the epidemic ingested both JSF4 phage and the outbreak V. cholerae strain. Host-mediated phage amplification during the cholera epidemic likely contributed to increased environmental phage abundance, decreased load of environmental V. cholerae and, hence, the collapse of the epidemic. Thus, in vivo phage amplification in patients and subsequent phage predation in the environment may explain the self-limiting nature of seasonal cholera epidemics in Bangladesh.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6119-6124
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 26 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Vibrio cholerae
  • Vibriophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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