Grant SL, Tamason CC, Hoque BA, Jensen PK. Drinking cholera: salinity levels and palatability of drinking water in coastal Bangladesh. Trop Med Int Health. 2015 Apr;20(4):455-61. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12455.
OBJECTIVES: To measure the salinity levels of common water sources in coastal Bangladesh and explore perceptions of water palatability among the local population to investigate the plausibility of linking cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh with ingestion of saline-rich cholera-infected river water.
METHODS: Hundred participants took part in a taste-testing experiment of water with varying levels of salinity. Salinity measurements were taken of both drinking and non-drinking water sources. Informal group discussions were conducted to gain an in-depth understanding of water sources and water uses.
RESULTS: Salinity levels of non-drinking water sources suggest that the conditions for Vibrio cholerae survival exist 7-8 days within the local aquatic environment. However, 96% of participants in the taste-testing experiment reported that they would never drink water with salinity levels that would be conducive to V. cholerae survival. Furthermore, salinity levels of participant’s drinking water sources were all well below the levels required for optimal survival of V. cholerae. Respondents explained that they preferred less salty and more aesthetically pleasing drinking water.
CONCLUSION: Theoretically, V. cholerae can survive in the river systems in Bangladesh; however, water sources which have been contaminated with river water are avoided as potential drinking water sources. Furthermore, there are no physical connecting points between the river system and drinking water sources among the study population, indicating that the primary driver for cholera cases in Bangladesh is likely not through the contamination of saline-rich river water into drinking water sources.