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International dissemination of epidemic Vibrio cholerae by cargo ship ballast and other nonpotable waters.

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  • Research Article


In 1991 and 1992, toxigenic Vibrio cholerae O1, serotype Inaba, biotype El Tor, was recovered from nonpotable (ballast, bilge, and sewage) water from five cargo ships docked in ports of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Four of these ships had taken on ballast water in cholera-infected countries; the fifth took on ballast in a noninfected country. Isolates examined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis were indistinguishable from the Latin American epidemic strain, C6707; however, they differed significantly from the endemic Gulf Coast strain (VRL 1984), the sixth-pandemic strain (569-B), and a V. cholerae non-O1 strain isolated from a ship arriving from a foreign port. On the basis of our findings, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that the U.S. Coast Guard issue an advisory to shipping agents and captains requesting that ballast waters be exchanged on the high seas before entry of ships into U.S. ports.

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