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Cholera Sample Collected During World War I Analyzed

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

World War One choleraCAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Reuters reports that researchers led by Nick Thomson and Matthew Dorman of the Wellcome Sanger Institute have mapped the genome of a sample of cholera bacteria collected from a sick British soldier sent to Egypt to convalesce in 1916, during World War I. Cholera, which is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the bacteria, causes severe diarrhea, and can spread rapidly in areas with poor sanitation. Dorman said, however, that the bacteria in the sample had faults that rendered it nontoxigenic, including the lack of a flagellum—the tail that allows the bacteria to swim. It is unlikely that this strain of cholera caused the widespread outbreak of cholera that occurred during World War I, Thomson explained. The scientists concluded that the British soldier probably had another infection that caused his symptoms. For more on bacteria in the archaeological record, go to Bronze Age Plague.

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