While cholera rages across many regions of the world, a team of microbiologists and plant scientists has pinpointed a genetic weakness in the pandemic’s armor, which could lead to future treatments.
The current cholera pandemic began in Indonesia in 1961. Rather than fade away like its six previous worldwide outbreak predecessors, the responsible strain is thriving and actually picking up steam. A discovery, led by scientists from Michigan State University and Tufts University and featured in the current issue of PNAS, shows the key genetic change the seventh pandemic acquired to thrive for more than 50 years.
The interdisciplinary team of scientists reveal the first ever signaling network for a new bacterial signal, cyclic GMP-AMP (cGAMP), in the human cholera pathogen. The team also identified the first protein receptor of cGAMP as a phospholipase enzyme that remodels the V. cholerae membrane when cGAMP is produced.
“When this pandemic emerged, it virtually displaced all of the other V. cholerae isolates, or previous strains, on a worldwide scale,” said Chris Waters, MSU microbiology professor, who co-led the study with Wai-Leung Ng, Tufts microbiologist. “No one really knows why this happened. Our discovery of cGAMP synthase and phospholipase, which are present only in the seventh pandemic, could be key drivers of the seventh cholera pandemic.”