Cholera is an infection caused by the ingestion of water contaminated by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium. Many people who are infected do not have any symptoms but evacuate the bacterium in their feces, which contributes to the spreading of the virus by the fecal-oral route.
Cholera transmission is closely related to inadequate sanitation and a lack of safe water. The most severe form of infection is characterized by acute diarrhea that can lead to severe dehydration. Cholera can be fatal without treatment, which consists of administering oral rehydration salts to sick patients.
There are currently two types of vaccine: both are whole-cell vaccines, one with a recombinant B-sub unit, the other without. Both have sustained protection of 50%, lasting for two years in endemic settings. Administration of the vaccines is in addition to conventional cholera control measures.
According to WHO, the number of cholera cases is growing rapidly. It is estimated that there are approximately 3 to 5 million cases, with 100,000 to 120,000 deaths per year. However, the real burden of the disease remains unknown due to the limited nature of surveillance systems in most countries.
As a result of this situation, AMP is developing a surveillance system network in 11 countries via the Africhol project to determine the incidence of cholera in sub-Saharan Africa. The data collected by the project will be used to inform decisions regarding the best interventions to undertake for preventing and curbing cholera, including vaccination and improved water quality, sanitation, and environmental health.