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Rapid growth of planktonic Vibrio cholerae non-O1/non-O139 strains in a large alkaline lake in Austria: dependence on temperature and dissolved organic carbon quality.

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Carbon, Austria, metabolism, Fresh Water, microbiology, Temperature, Vibrio cholerae non-O1, growth & development

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      Vibrio cholerae non-O1/non-O139 strains have caused several cases of ear, wound, and blood infections, including one lethal case of septicemia in Austria, during recent years. All of these cases had a history of local recreational activities in the large eastern Austrian lake Neusiedler See. Thus, a monitoring program was started to investigate the prevalence of V. cholerae strains in the lake over several years. Genetic analyses of isolated strains revealed the presence of a variety of pathogenic genes, but in no case did we detect the cholera toxin gene or the toxin-coregulated pilus gene, both of which are prerequisites for the pathogen to be able to cause cholera. In addition, experiments were performed to elucidate the preferred ecological niche of this pathogen. As size filtration experiments indicated and laboratory microcosms showed, endemic V. cholerae could rapidly grow in a free-living state in natural lake water at growth rates similar to those of the bulk natural bacterial population. Temperature and the quality of dissolved organic carbon had a highly significant influence on V. cholerae growth. Specific growth rates, growth yield, and enzyme activity decreased markedly with increasing concentrations of high-molecular-weight substances, indicating that the humic substances originating from the extensive reed belt in the lake can inhibit V. cholerae growth.

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