Background & objectives:
Factor causing the elimination of the classical biotype of Vibrio cholerae O1, and its replacement by the El Tor biotype causing the 7th cholera pandemic are unclear. Possible ability of the El Tor strains to adapt better than the classical strains to undefined environmental forces have been largely implicated for the change. Here we describe an environmental bacteriophage designated JSF9 which might have contributed to the range of factors.
Competition assays were conducted in the infant mice model and in microcosms between representative El Tor and classical biotype strains in the absence or in the presence of JSF9 phage.
The JSF9 phage was found to kill classical strains and favour enrichment of El Tor strains, when mixtures containing strains of the two biotypes and JSF9 phage were subjected to alternate passage in infant mice and in samples of environmental water. Spontaneous derivatives of the classical biotype strains, as well as transposon mutants which developed resistance to JSF9 phage were found to be defective in colonization in the infant mouse model.
Interpretation & conclusions:
These results suggest that in addition to other factors, the inherent ability of El Tor biotype strains to evade predation by JSF9 or similar phages which kill classical biotype strains, might have enhanced the emergence of El Tor strains as the predominant pandemic biotype.