Seafood lovers, take note. Eating soft-shelled turtles may cause cholera, finds study

Besides soft-shelled turtles, aquatic hosts of the disease include zooplankton, fish, shellfish, egg masses of midges, waterfowl and crustaceans.

fitness Updated: Jun 10, 2017 11:55 IST
Asian News International
Cholera outbreak,Fish,Shellfish
According to researchers, the pathogen, Vibrio cholerae, can colonise the surfaces, as well as the intestines of soft-shelled turtles.(AFP)

Seafood lovers, take note. A study recently found that soft-shelled turtles, zooplankton, fish, waterfowl, crab, lobster and shrimp are likely to spread cholera in humans.

Cholera is a bacterial disease causing severe diarrhoea and dehydration, usually spread through water.

Besides soft-shelled turtles, aquatic hosts of V. cholerae include zooplankton, fish, shellfish, egg masses of midges, waterfowl and crustaceans. Fish and shellfish are particularly dangerous.

According to researchers, the pathogen, Vibrio cholerae can colonise the surfaces, as well as the intestines of soft-shelled turtles. To infect the turtles, the investigators dipped them in a phosphate buffered saline solution containing the now bioluminescent bacteria, serogroup 0139.

Over the next four days, they checked the turtles at 24-hour intervals. The findings indicated that initially light signals were detected at 24 hours and then after 96 hours, the entire dorsal side of the turtles’ shells was emitting bioluminescence.

Fish and shellfish are particularly dangerous (Shutterstock)

The latter was also easily detected on the dorsal side of the turtles’ limbs and necks and in the calipash, the gelatinous protoplasm, locally regarded as a delicacy that lies directly beneath the shells’ surface.

The turtles were inoculated intragastrically with the bioluminescent V. cholerae.

Knowing that the digestion takes roughly 34 to 56 hours in 150 gram turtles, the team euthanised and dissected the turtles at 72 hours and checked all their internal organs.

Bioluminscence could be detected only in the intestines.

They also identified the different colonisation factors – molecular machinery on the surface of V. cholerae – that enabled the bacteria to stick to the turtles’ dorsal surfaces and intestines.

Through surveillance of the disease in China,study author Biao Kan said that cholera is a life-threatening diarrheal disease and consumption of cholera-carrying soft-shelled turtles had caused outbreaks of the disease.

He also noted that the O139 serogroup, the major strain spread by the turtles, is an emerging disease in China.

A side benefit of the study is that the soft-shelled turtle could serve as a new animal model for studying how V. cholerae interacts with aquatic hosts.

The research was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 11:55 IST