1800s cholera bugs yield clues to cure


The intestine of an American cholera victim from the mid-1800s has yielded new clues to the evolution of the deadly bacterium and may help prevent future outbreaks, researchers said Wednesday.

Using the sample of an intestine, preserved in a jar at a Philadelphia medical museum, scientists reconstructed for the first time the genome of classical cholera, the modern strain’s predecessor.

Results published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggest this strain, which is behind five of seven deadly outbreaks in the 1800s, may be more virulent than its contemporary counterpart.

Researchers said they hope their discovery could lead to a better understanding of today’s strain of cholera, known as El Tor, which replaced the classical strain in the 1960s.