Ecological relationships between Vibrio cholerae and planktonic crustacean copepods

  • Huq A
  • Small E
  • West P
 et al. 
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Strains of Vibrio cholerae, both 01 and non-01 serovars, were found to attach to the surfaces of live copepods maintained in natural water samples collected from the Chesapeake Bay and Bangladesh environs. The specificity of attachment of V. cholerae to live copepods was confirmed by scanning electron microscopy, which revealed that the oral region and egg sac were the most heavily colonized areas of the copepods. In addition, survival of V. cholerae in water was extended in the presence of live copepods. Attachment of viable V. cholerae cells to copepods killed by exposure to -60°C was not observed. Furthermore, survival of V. cholerae was not as long in the presence of dead copepods as in the live copepod system. A strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus was also seen to attach to copepod surfaces without effect on survival of the organism in water. The attachment of vibrios to copepods was concluded to be significant since strains of other bacteria, including Pseudomonas sp. and Escherichia coli, did not adhere to live or dead copepods. Attachment of V. cholerae to live copepods is suggested to be an important factor of the ecology of this species in the aquatic environment, as well as in the epidemiology of cholera, for which V. cholerae serovar 01 is the causative agent. Evidence is rapidly accumulating which indi-cates that pathogenic Vibrio species, including Vibrio cholerae, are naturally occurring mem-bers of the aquatic environment (3, 4, 9, 15-18). The ecological studies reported to date have mainly described the spatial and temporal distri-bution of pathogenic vibrios in the water column of the aquatic environment. All pathogenic Vibrio species elaborate an extracellular chitinase (2), and to date, only one study has fully investigated the significance of any association between these pathogenic vib-rios and the chitin-containing zooplankton in the water column. In the study of Kaneko and Colwell (14), Vibrio parahaemolyticus was shown to adsorb onto copepods, with the effi-ciency of this effect being dependent on pH and salinity. Furthermore, both pH and salinity were concluded to be major factors influencing the distribution of V. parahaemolyticus in estuarine ecosystems such as Chesapeake Bay (15). Colwell et al. (8) recorded the isolation of V. cholerae from plankton samples from Bangla-desh waters and Chesapeake Bay and suggested that an association between V. cholerae and

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  • A. Huq

  • E. B. Small

  • P. A. West

  • M. I. Huq

  • R. Rahman

  • R. R. Colwell

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