Fresh from our "Can't catch a break" file, scientists have discovered that the strain of cholera that has devastated Haiti in recent months was brought to the nation by outsiders, more than likely Asian U.N. troops. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that scientists at Menlo Park-based Pacific Biosciences of California Inc. took only two days to map the pathogen's genome, the set of genes that makes any organism unique, using tissue samples from patients in Haiti. The Haitian strain is almost identical to types found in South Asia and differs greatly from those circulating in nearby Latin America, according to the analysis published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
This suggests that humans carried the Asian strain into the country, which hadn't had a cholera outbreak in more than 100 years, even with its desperate poverty and lack of sanitation, said Matthew Waldor, an author of the study. Better screening is needed of people traveling from areas with endemic cholera to regions where conditions could lead to an outbreak, he said. The cholera epidemic has killed 2,120 people and hospitalized 44,000 people in Haiti. In the words of Florida Evans, "Damn, damn, damn!"
Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.