Zebrafish as a natural host model for Vibrio cholerae colonization and transmission.

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The human diarrheal disease cholera is caused by the aquatic bacterium Vibrio cholerae. V. cholerae in the environment is associated with several varieties of aquatic life, including insect egg masses, shellfish, and vertebrate fish. Here we describe a novel animal model for V. cholerae, the zebrafish. Pandemic V. cholerae strains specifically colonize the zebrafish intestinal tract after exposure in water with no manipulation of the animal required. Colonization occurs in close contact with the intestinal epithelium and mimics colonization observed in mammals. Zebrafish that are colonized by V. cholerae transmit the bacteria to naive fish, which then become colonized. Striking differences in colonization between V. cholerae classical and El Tor biotypes were apparent. The zebrafish natural habitat in Asia heavily overlaps areas where cholera is endemic, suggesting that zebrafish and V. cholerae evolved in close contact with each other. Thus, the zebrafish provides a natural host model for the study of V. cholerae colonization, transmission, and environmental survival.

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Applied and environmental microbiology

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