Vibrio cholerae is ubiquitous in aquatic environments, with environmental toxigenic V. cholerae O1 strains serving as a source for recurrent cholera epidemics and pandemic disease. However, a number of questions remain about long-term survival and evolution of V. cholerae strains within these aquatic environmental reservoirs. Through monitoring of the Haitian aquatic environment following the 2010 cholera epidemic, we isolated two novel non-toxigenic (ctxA/B-negative) Vibrio cholerae O1. These two isolates underwent whole-genome sequencing and were investigated through comparative genomics and Bayesian coalescent analysis. These isolates cluster in the evolutionary tree with strains responsible for clinical cholera, possessing genomic components of 6(th) and 7(th) pandemic lineages, and diverge from "modern" cholera strains around 1548 C.E. [95% HPD: 1532-1555]. Vibrio Pathogenicity Island (VPI)-1 was present; however, SXT/R391-family ICE and VPI-2 were absent. Rugose phenotype conversion and vibriophage resistance evidenced adaption for persistence in aquatic environments. The identification of V. cholerae O1 strains in the Haitian environment, which predate the first reported cholera pandemic in 1817, broadens our understanding of the history of pandemics. It also raises the possibility that these and similar environmental strains could acquire virulence genes from the 2010 Haitian epidemic clone, including the cholera toxin producing CTX?.
Journal: Scientific reports