Rugose atypicalVibrio choleraeO1 El Tor responsible for 2009 cholera outbreak in India

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Vibrio cholerae causes cholera outbreaks in endemic regions where the water quality and sanitation facilities remain poor. Apart from biotype and serotype changes, V. cholerae undergoes phase variation, which results in the generation of two morphologically different variants termed smooth and rugose. In this study, 12 rugose (R-VC) and 6 smooth (S-VC) V. cholerae O1 Ogawa isolates were identified in a cholera outbreak that occurred in Hyderabad, India. Antimicrobial susceptibility results showed that all the isolates were resistant to ampicillin, furazolidone and nalidixic acid. In addition, R-VC isolates were resistant to ciprofloxacin (92 %), streptomycin (92 %), erythromycin (83 %), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (75 %) and tetracycline (75 %). Based on the ctxB gene analysis, all the isolates were identified as El Tor variant with mutation in two positions of ctxB, similar to the classical biotype. The R-VC isolates specifically showed excessive biofilm formation and were comparatively less motile. In addition, the majority of these isolates (˜83 %) displayed random mutations in the hapR gene, which encodes haemagglutinin protease regulatory protein. In the PFGE analysis, R-VC and S-VC were placed in distinct clusters but remained clonally related. In the ribotyping analysis, all the R-VC isolates exhibited R-III pattern, which is a prevailing type among the current El Tor isolates. A hapR deletion mutant generated using an S-VC isolate expressed rugose phenotype. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the association of rugose V. cholerae O1 in a large cholera outbreak with extended antimicrobial resistance and random mutations in the haemagglutinin protease regulatory protein encoding gene (hapR).

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