Since October 1992, > 150, 000 cases of cholera have been reported from India and Bangladesh; the great majority of Vibrio cholerae isolates belong to the newly established serogroup O139. To better understand the interaction of genetic and epidemiologic factors responsible for their sudden appearance and rapid spread, representative toxigenic V. cholerae O139 isolates were molecularly characterized and compared with a set of toxigenic V. cholerae O1 and non-O1/non-O139 strains. DNA sequences of the cholera toxin B subunit gene and multilocus enzyme electrophoresis markers of V. cholerae O139 strains were identical to those of V. cholerae O1isolates of the seventh pandemic. Two distinct ribotypes and four pulsed-field gel electrophoretic patterns were observed for O139 strains. V. cholerae O139 strains were very similar to V. cholerae O1 strains of the seventh pandemic but clearly different from the toxigenic V. cholerae strains of serogroups other than O1 and O139.
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