Researchers demonstrate need for public genomic cholera database

A new study led by University of Maryland researchers on the cholera strains involved in the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak has shown the critical need for a genomic database of outbreak-causing cholera bacteria.

The international team of scientists found that two distinct strains of cholera were involved in the 2010 Haitian cholera outbreak. The study involved the largest number of isolates sequenced and studied from a single cholera outbreak to date.

Claire Fraser, the co-leader of the study, said it showed the need for an up-to-date, public genomic database of Vibrio cholerae bacteria to better prevent or respond to future cholera outbreaks.

"The complete sequencing and phylogenomic analysis of multiple isolates from a single infectious disease outbreak has shown that there is significant genomic diversity among the cholera bacteria," Fraser said. "The results of the study speak to a critical need for an up-to-date, curated and publicly available reference genomic database reflecting the species global phylogenetic diversity. In light of the diversity we have found, such a database would benefit investigations of future cholera epidemics and provide a more accurate risk assessment for public health response."

The project utilized large scale sequencing technology to study the genomic diversity of cholera isolates from the Haitian epidemic. The study found complexity in the cholera bacteria and relationships between isolates from Haiti and isolates from past and concurrent cholera epidemics throughout the world.

"This project is an example of the kind of interdisciplinary, collaborative academic relationship that our outstanding scientists have with those at our sister campus in College Park," E. Albert Reece, the vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, said. "We hope that more similarly groundbreaking scientific discoveries will arise from collaborations between the two schools in many areas of science and medicine."