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Volume 21, Number 1—January 2015

Monitoring Water Sources for Environmental Reservoirs of Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O1, Haiti

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To the Editor: In the March 2014 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Alam et al. reported a survey of water sources in Haiti conducted to isolate Vibrio cholerae (1). Each month from April 2012 through March 2013, they sampled 15 sites at 3 rivers and 1 estuary in West Department. From 179 water samples and 144 aquatic animals and plants, they obtained 7 V. cholerae O1 isolates, including 3 ctx-positive toxigenic strains.

Unfortunately, the results for all 7 V. cholerae O1 isolates were aggregated, and no details were provided about the exact time and location of collection of samples corresponding to the 3 ctx-positive strains. The authors posed the question of whether V. cholerae O1 has become established in environmental reservoirs in Haiti, subsequently warning that “as long as the causative microorganism is present in the environment, eradication of the disease will not be possible.”


Thumbnail of Weekly cholera incidence in communal sections of Haiti in which water samples were positive for Vibrio cholerae O1; accumulated precipitation in the studied area by week during April 2012–March 2013; and number of environmental sites from which V. cholerae O1 was isolated, by month. Incidence was calculated from patients who were hospitalized in the Leogane cholera treatment center and who resided near the 4 sites found positive for V. cholerae O1 by Alam et al. (1): second communal

Figure. Weekly cholera incidence in communal sections of Haiti in which water samples were positive for Vibrio cholerae O1; accumulated precipitation in the studied area by week during April 2012–March 2013; and...

However, after challenging their results with more accurate epidemiologic data, we found that these 3 ctx-positive toxigenic strains could more likely have been present in the sampled rivers as a result of recent fecal contamination (Figure). Indeed, many cholera cases were reported in the corresponding communal sections (i.e., the smallest Haitian administrative unit, average 25 km2) when the samples containing the 7 V. cholerae O1 isolates were collected. In this context of an ongoing cholera epidemic associated with persisting rainfall (Figure), generalized open-air defecation inevitably leads to contamination of water sources. It is therefore impossible to determine whether V. cholerae–positive rivers constitute perennial reservoirs of the bacteria or whether they act only as transient vectors of the pathogens.

The recent dramatic decrease in cholera transmission may provide a good opportunity to address this issue (2). We thus encourage Alam et al. to continue the search for ctx-positive toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains in surface waters, especially during cholera-free periods.



We are grateful to the Haitian Directorate of Epidemiology Laboratory and Research and Doctors without Borders from Switzerland for providing cholera case data from the Leogane cholera treatment unit. We are indebted to Sandra Moore for her fine editing of this manuscript.

This work was co-financed by Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Marseille and the Haiti Office of the United Nations Children's Fund.


Stanislas RebaudetComments to Author  and Renaud Piarroux

Author affiliations: Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille, France



  1. Alam  MT, Weppelmann  TA, Weber  CD, Johnson  JA, Rashid  MH, Birch  CS, Monitoring water sources for environmental reservoirs of toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O1, Haiti. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014;20:35663 . DOIPubMed
  2. Ministère de la Santé Publique et de la Population de la République d’Haïti. Centre de Documentation. [in French] [cited 19 Mar 2014].




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DOI: 10.3201/eid2101.140627

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Table of Contents – Volume 21, Number 1—January 2015


Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Stanislas Rebaudet, Laboratoire de Parasitologie-Mycologie, Hôpital de la Timone, Assistance Publique–Hôpitaux de Marseille, 264 rue Saint Pierre, 13385 Marseille CEDEX 05, France

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Page created: December 19, 2014
Page updated: December 19, 2014
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