Cholera dynamics: Lessons from an epidemic

Deepak Balasubramanian, Sebastian Murcia, C. Brandon Ogbunugafor, Ronnie Gavilan, Salvador Almagro-Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cholera is a severe diarrhoeal disease that spreads rapidly and affects millions of people each year, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. The disease is caused by Vibrio cholerae O1 and is characterized by watery diarrhoea that can be lethal if not properly treated. Cholera had not been reported in South America from the late 1800s until 1991, when it was introduced in Peru, wreaking havoc in one of the biggest epidemics reported to date. Within a year, the disease had spread to most of the Latin American region, resulting in millions of cases and thousands of deaths in all affected countries. Despite its aggressive entry, cholera virtually disappeared from the continent after 1999. The progression of the entire epidemic was well documented, making it an ideal model to understand cholera dynamics. In this review, we highlight how the synergy of socioeconomic, political and ecological factors led to the emergence, rapid spread and eventual disappearance of cholera in Latin America. We discuss how measures implemented during the cholera epidemic drastically changed its course and continental dynamics. Finally, we synthesize our findings and highlight potential lessons that can be learned for efficient and standardized cholera management programmes during future outbreaks in non-endemic areas.

Original languageEnglish
Article number001298
JournalJournal of Medical Microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 8 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Backcasting
  • Cholera
  • Epidemic
  • Latin America
  • Pandemics
  • Peru
  • Public health
  • Vibrio cholerae


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