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Home :: Digestive Disorders



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Cholera is an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae . This phenomenon was first described in a scientific manner by the Portuguese physician Garcia de Orta in Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas da India ( 1563 ). It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. The clinical description of cholera begins with sudden onset of massive diarrhea. The patient may lose gallons of protein-free fluid and associated electrolytes, bicarbonates and ions within a day or two. This results from the activity of the cholera enterotoxin which activates the adenylate cyclase enzyme in the intestinal cells, converting them into pumps which extract water and electrolytes from blood and tissues and pump it into the lumen of the intestine. It causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and patients, particularly children and the elderly, are vulnerable to dangerous dehydration as a result. The risk of epidemics is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.

Cholera is a severe diarrheal illness that spreads through contaminated water. Cholera (frequently called Asiatic cholera or epidemic cholera ) is a severe diarrheal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Patients with severe cases respond dramatically to simple fluid- and electrolyte-replacement therapy. n countries reporting outbreaks of cholera, the bacteria may be in the water supply, uncooked seafood, or other contaminated foods. Cholera is very rare in the United States. Most antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents have no value in cholera therapy, although a few (e.g. tetracyclines) may shorten the duration of diarrhea and reduce fluid loss. Cholera is not a difficult disease to treat and most people recover well with appropriate oral fluid replacement (hydration). The great irony is that unlike many infectious diseases, cholera is easily treated. Death results from severe dehydration, which can be prevented with a simple and inexpensive rehydration solution.

Causes of Cholera

The common Causes of Cholera :

  • Cholera is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae
  • Vibrio cholerae is a comma-shaped, curved gram negative rods, which are motile
  • The toxin released by the bacteria causes increased secretion of water and chloride ions in the intestine, which can produce massive diarrhea.
  • It is spread through food or water contaminated by fecal waste.
  • Uncooked shellfish, milk, cooked rice, lentils, potatoes, beans, eggs, chicken and coconut milk all become the sources of the disease.
  • Vibrio cholerae produces a toxic substance called "enterotoxin" this causes cholera, a profuse watery diarrhea that can sometimes rapidly lead to dehydration and death.
  • A type of vibrio bacteria also has been associated with shellfish , especially raw oysters.
  • The cause of cholera is drinking water or eating food that is contaminated with Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

Symptoms of Cholera

Some are common Symptoms of Cholera :

  • Nausea
  • Dry skin
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lack of tears
  • Vomiting
  • Leg cramps
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dry mucous membranes or dry mouth
  • Muscle cramps
  • Glassy eyes or sunken eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Watery diarrhea

Treatment of Cholera

Here is the list of the methods for treating Cholera :

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed an oral rehydration solution that is cheaper and easier to use than the typical intravenous fluid.
  • This solution of sugar and electrolytes is now being used internationally.
  • Mild or moderate cases - Give the person plenty of fluids to drink by mouth.
  • Tetracycline resistant strains are now treated with Co-trimoxazole, erythromycin, doxycycline, chloramphenicol and furazolidone.
  • Severe cases are treated using intravenously administered fluids and antibiotics such as tetracycline or doxycycline.
  • Infection of cholera can be adequately treated by administering oral rehydration salts to replace the loss of fluids and salts
  • Other antibiotic treatment may be reduced the volume and duration of diarrhea and the period of Vibrio excretion.
  • The bacteria can be cultured from the stool.
  • Treatment requires rapid I.V. infusion of large amounts of isotonic saline solution, alternating with isotonic sodium bicarbonate or sodium lactate.