Introduction: During the cholera outbreak from 2010 to 2011 in Cameroon, 33,192 cases with 1,440 deaths (case fatality ratio 4.34%) were reported to the World Health Organization. Of these, the South West Region reported 3,120 clinical cases. This region is in the Equatorial Monsoon climatic subzone of Cameroon, close to the coast, raising questions as to whether cases were linked with development of environmental reservoirs.
Methods: In an investigation conducted by the Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Buea, toxigenic V. cholerae O1 were isolated from diarrheal stool samples from 18 patients, with ages ranging from <3 to 70 years. Coordinates for clinical centers at which cases were identified were obtained using a handheld GPS, and were mapped using ArcGIS. Antibiotic susceptibility testing was performed using the Kirby ‘Bauer agar disc diffusion method. The full genomes of these strains were sequenced with the Illumina MiSeq platform. De novo assembly of cholera genomes and multiple sequence alignment were carried out using the bioinformatics pipeline developed in the Emerging Pathogens Institute laboratory at the University of Florida.
Results/Discussion: Genetic comparisons showed that isolates were closely related, with pairwise p-distances ranging from 2.25 to 14.52 10-5 nt substitutions per site, and no statistically significant correlation between the pairwise genetic distances and the geographic distances among sampling locations. Indeed, the phylogeny of the Cameroonian strains displays the typical star-like topology and intermixing of strains from different locations that are characteristic of an exponential outbreak localized around a relatively restricted area with occasional spillover to other parts of the country, likely mediated by direct human contact and human movement. Findings highlight the utility of whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis in understanding transmission patterns at the local level.