Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Hospital, Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2 Detachment, Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2, The Naval Medical Research Institute Detachment, Bangkok, Thailand
In 1992, a serologically novel clone of Vibrio cholerae, designated O139, caused large epidemics of diarrhea in India and Bangladesh. To determine the extent of the spread of V. cholerae O139 worldwide, 484 V. cholerae non-O1 strains isolated from different patients with diarrhea in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Peru in 1993 were tested for agglutination in O139 antisera. One hundred fifty-one of these 484 isolates were examined for genes encoding cholera toxin, zonula occlulans toxin, the repetitive sequence 1, and the toxin coregulated pilin A (the V. cholerae virulence gene complex). Thirty-three percent (122 of 364) of V. cholerae non-O1 strains isolated from different patients with diarrhea in Thailand agglutinated in O139 antisera. Ninety-eight percent (120 of 122) of V. cholerae O139 contained the V. cholerae virulence gene complex. None of the 104 V. cholerae non-O1 strains isolated from patients with diarrhea in Indonesia or the 14 strains from patients with diarrhea in the Philippines were serotype O139. Four different ribotypes were found in V. cholerae O139 isolated in Asia. Twenty-three (47%) of 49 Thai O139 strains examined were of different ribotypes than isolates from India and Bangladesh; V. cholerae strains that were not O1 or O139 that were isolated from flies and water in Thailand 11 years previously in 1981 contained the same V. cholerae virulence gene complex found in V. cholerae O1 and O139. This suggests that other unidentified virulence determinants are involved in V. cholerae O139 pathogenesis.