Predicting Cholera Epidemics

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Predicting cholera epidemics now possible, suggests an article in ScienceNOW 17 Feb 2004. Cholera bacteria are normally found in coastal and estuarine waters where they live attached to the shells of tiny crustaceans called copepods. Cholera epidemics occur when the water supply is contaminated by large numbers of copepods. By understanding the climatic and other environmental conditions that lead to a build up of copepods, scientists hope to be able to predict disease outbreaks and be prepared with appropriate treatment. A group of scientists led by Rita Colwell of the University of Maryland, College Park, have been monitoring the distribution of cholera bacteria in seawater related to various environmental factors, in four sites off the coast of Peru. They found cholera outbreaks occurred when sea surface temperatures and levels of phytoplankton both increased. These can be monitored by satellite, so scientists are developing computer models using satellite data to warn of disease outbreaks.

Editorial Comment: Before Rita Colwell did her research into cholera it was widely stated in medical texts, that cholera evolved to make people sick by evolving a toxic chemical that caused diarrhoea. This helped it spread into the water supply so it could infect other people. Now we know that the bacterium lives on copepods in coastal waters. Its chemical secretions help break down copepod shells when they are shed or when copepods die. This bacterium is therefore an important part of the process of recycling nutrients in the environment. However during floods when a lot of faeces gets into the water the algae grows rapidly. Copepods eat algae and also rapidly increase, so the number of cholera bacterium on the copepods increase. If you drink this water you are in trouble. If this is followed by improper sewerage management the bacteria will spread rapidly through the community and an epidemic follows during which many people will blame God, instead of admitting that cholera is a well designed, useful bacterium that occasionally finds itself in the wrong place. This fits the Biblical history of the world. Genesis tells us that the world started out good (Genesis 1:31), cholera lived in the sea and broke down shed crustacean shells. It didn't rain so there were no floods. After Noah's flood God told man to spread out and cover the earth. Mans sinful refusal resulted in overcrowded communities with poor water management. Crustaceans and cholera could now get into water supplies and make people sick. Cholera, with its evil reputation as a mass killer, is a good example of a problem whose answer is found in the Biblical history of the world, not in evolution. (Ref. cholera, bacteria, epidemic)

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