Cholera is one of the oldest infectious diseases known, and, with approximately 4 million cases annually, remains a major burden in many developing countries. The transmission of cholera primarily occurs through contaminated water. However, early studies on volunteers suggested that an incredibly high amount of bacteria is required to cause disease symptoms. Until today, the mechanism of infection of the first few cases at the onset of an outbreak (i.e. the index cases) remains unclear.
Research led by AcademiaNet scientist Melanie Blokesch and her team aims to elucidate this conundrum by studying the environmental lifestyle of the causative agent of the disease, the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The researchers hypothesise that one of the natural niches of the bacterium - chitinous exoskeletons of crustaceans - may prime the pathogen for intestinal colonisation of its human host. In a new project, the team investigates how this affects V. cholerae spread from the ecosystem to humans in endemic areas, in order to uncover how such transmission events result in the infection of index cases. Melanie Blokesch recently received an ERC Consolidator Grant to support her work on this subject. "In the past 4 years I have experienced the difference that an ERC grant can have on one’s research, as my group benefitted from an ERC Starting Grant. Thus, it was a truly wonderful moment when I found out that my ERC funding will continue through an ERC Consolidator Grant. I feel very honored by this decision. And, being a wholehearted microbiologist, I am extremely excited to work on the new project", Blokesch told AcademiaNet.(© AcademiaNet)