The cholera genome: an advance for science or for medicine?

genome sequence will help in developing protection against the disease. Robert Walgate discovers that it might - but perhaps not in the most obvious ways.

Robert Walgate
Aug 7, 2000

LONDON, 8 August (Science Analysed) So, we have the genome sequence of Vibrio cholerae, a fascinating organism for research, with its two circular chromosomes, its complex estuarine and marine ecology involving plankton and bacteriophage, a history of gene hopping and its links not only to many gut bacteria — including Escherichia coli — but also to a wide variety of organisms important in the marine biota. This will clearly be a treasure trove for science.

But is it of use to medicine, as some media reports and some scientists have hinted? Let's get some perspective. A quarter of a million cases of cholera, 3.6% of which (9135) were fatal, were reported to WHO in 1999. But those figures exclude Bangladesh, historically the prime focus of the disease, which does not report its cholera cases to WHO, and where experts estimate there are probably 400,000–600,000 cases a year...

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