Press Releases

November 30, 2022

New Insights into Cholera

With cases of cholera on the rise worldwide, Dr. Waldor’s discoveries are a step forward to better understanding how to prevent spread and infection.

Who: Matthew Waldor MD, PhD, Principal Investigator, Division of Infectious Diseases, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, co-corresponding author of papers in Nature and The New England Journal of Medicine

What: Cases of cholera are on the rise worldwide, with 29 countries reporting cholera cases since January. In Haiti, where cholera was considered eliminated, a new outbreak of the disease began in September 2022.

Experts from the Brigham are working to better understand outbreaks and infection from cholera on multiple fronts. Two papers, published today in prestigious journals, illustrate these efforts:

  1. In a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, Waldor and co-authors, including first author Daniel Rubin, an MD/PhD student, sequenced isolates of Vibrio cholerae, the cause of cholera, from the 2022 outbreak in Haiti and isolates from Bangladesh, finding that the 2022 Haiti isolates share characteristics with the 2010 Haiti outbreak strain. Their findings suggest that the new outbreak is caused, at least in part, by a descendent of the 2010 strain, even though there were no confirmed cases between 2019 and 2022. The findings suggest that cholera persisted, even after it was thought to have been eliminated, perhaps through subclinical infections or in environmental reservoirs.
  2. In a paper published in Nature, Waldor and co-authors, including first author Brandon Sit, a PhD student, identified two families of transporter proteins required for synthesis of the bacterial cell wall and found that V. cholerae needs at least one of these transporters to cause successful infection.

“This discovery is a major advance in microbial cell biology and adds an important layer to our understanding of how bacteria, including pathogens, adapt to ever-shifting environments,” said Waldor. “These studies expand understanding of the pathogenesis and transmission of cholera, a disease that is currently resurgent in many corners around the globe.”

When: Dr. Waldron is available today, December 1.