Finkelstein, Richard A. Department of Biology, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, Missouri.
Last reviewed:January 2019
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A severe diarrheal disease caused by infection of the small bowel of humans with Vibrio cholerae. Cholera is an acute, infectious bacterial disease that results in serious, often fatal, gastrointestinal illness in humans. The causative agent is Vibrio cholerae (Fig. 1), which is a facultatively anaerobic, curved, gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is rapidly motile by means of a single sheathed polar flagellum. Cholera is transmitted by the fecal–oral route, being spread through contaminated water and food. From its ancestral home in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent, through movement of people by ships and other means of transportation, cholera has swept the world in seven pandemic waves in the 1800s and 1900s. However, less-extensive outbreaks remain problematic and occur sporadically throughout the world. Approximately 1.3 to 4 million cholera cases and up to 140,000 deaths per year are estimated by the World Health Organization, despite the fact that no one should die of cholera who receives appropriate treatment soon enough. See also: Bacteria; Bacteriology; Cholera in Haiti; Epidemic; Infectious disease; Medical bacteriology
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