Diarrhea Home > Cause of Cholera

Cholera is a disease that is transmitted through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Cholera is caused by a type of bacteria known as Vibrio cholerae. One of the ways this type of bacteria can get into food and water is through contaminated feces.

What Causes Cholera?

The cause of cholera is Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

What Is Vibrio Cholerae?

There are two general types of Vibrio cholerae:
  • Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O1
  • Vibrio cholerae Serogroup non-O1.
Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O1 is the type of Vibrio cholerae that most often leads to cholera. Vibrio cholerae Serogroup O139, a Vibrio cholerae Serogroup non-O1 bacteria, is the other cause of the disease.
Vibrio cholerae is native to the Ganges delta, which is in India and extends into Bangladesh. Since 1995, over 80 percent of reported cases of Vibrio cholerae infections have occurred in Africa.
Vibrio cholerae infections have been very rare in industrialized nations for the last 100 years. In the United States, there are zero to five cases per year. Most Vibrio cholerae infections in the United States have occurred in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, from contaminated shellfish.

How Is It Transmitted?

Cholera is usually transmitted by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with Vibrio cholerae.
There are two ways that Vibrio cholerae usually gets into water or food:
  • Contaminated feces
  • Naturally.
Cholera is not likely to spread directly from one person to another; therefore, casual contact with an infected person is not a risk for becoming ill.
Once Vibrio cholerae is ingested, the bacteria travel to the small intestine where they begin to multiply. Vibrio cholerae then begins producing its toxin, which is the main cause of watery diarrhea, a characteristic symptom of cholera. A person needs to ingest a considerable amount of Vibrio cholerae in order to develop cholera symptoms.
(Click How Is Cholera Spread? to learn more about cholera transmission.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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