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Nepal Likely Source of Haiti’s Cholera Outbreak

United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal likely did bring cholera into Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake last year, according to a new study published this week in mBio, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

A separate group of researchers last week also published a study in Nature that used advanced genetic sequencing to identify cholera strains from the last 40 years and mapped out the spread of the disease, including the recent outbreak in Haiti, according to CIDRAP.

The latest update from Haiti’s health ministry says the outbreak, which struck about nine months after the massive earthquake, has sickened 428,785 people and killed 6,194.

In May, a United Nations report suggested that no one source could be pinpointed, but rather a multitude of factors, including poor sanitation and contaminated waterways, were to blame for the devastating outbreak.

The UN report did not uphold the commonly held belief that a group of Nepalese peacekeepers, stationed near the site of the first reported cholera cases, was solely responsible for the epidemic.

“In the new study, researchers used whole-genome sequence typing, pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and antimicrobial susceptibility testing to characterize 24 recent Vibrio cholerae isolates from five districts in Nepal with 10 previously sequenced isolates, including three from Haiti’s outbreak. They noted that a cholera outbreak began in Nepal in July 2010 and was controlled by the middle of August, right before the soldiers left for Haiti,” reports CIDRAP.

The whole-genome sequencing study was headed by a group of researchers at Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Arizona. 


Photo Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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