Above: a cholera treatment centre in Haiti (UN Photo/Marco Dormino)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Another new study is pointing to Nepal as the likely source for the devastating cholera outbreak in Haiti in 2010.
The outbreak, which has killed around 7,000 Haitians, is widely though to have been brought to the country by UN peacekeepers in Nepal, although the UN has said it will not compensate victims of the outbreak.
The evidence “confirms the strain infecting Haiti likely originated in Nepal, consistent with the conclusion from the whole genome analysis and public health studies,” according to a release.
Strains with this unique signature have spread only in a “very defined geographical area, including India, where it was first detected in 2007.”
Before entering Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the strain had spread through Nepal, Bangladesh and Cameroon.
“Even though other strains are nearly identical and barely distinguishable at the genetic level, only this very small group of isolates share this unique signature, verifying from a functional viewpoint that the strain that moved to Haiti likely originated in Nepal,” Northwestern Medicine said.
“Previously published research on the Haiti cholera strain noted the change in the bacterium’s DNA and tracked its origin to Nepal, but scientists didn’t ask how the changes affected the bacterium’s function,” the organization said. “In addition, scientists had believed the bacterial strains responsible for the “new wave” of cholera that engulfed Haiti and first began spreading in 2000 were functionally identical to most other strains prevalent in the environment.”
According to the study, which was published in the journal mBio on Tuesday, Haiti’s cholera strain has several toxin gene mutations that could be the reason for the severity of the disease, which is evolving into something more like a 19th-century version of cholera.
“The cholera strain from the 1800s epidemic did the same thing,” said Karla Satchell, the senior author of the paper and an associate professor of microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “That strain also modified its toxin genes and the cholera got worse.”