The aim of the present study was to genotypically characterize Vibrio cholerae
strains isolated from cholera patients in various provinces of Thailand. Two hundred and forty V. cholerae
O1 strains, isolated from patients with cholera during two outbreaks, i.e. March 1999-April 2000 and December 2001-February 2002, in Thailand, were genotypically characterized by NotI digestion and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). In total, 17 PFGE banding patterns were found and grouped into four Dice-coefficient clusters (PF-I to PF-IV). The patterns of V. cholerae
O1, El Tor reference strains from Australia, Peru, Romania, and the United States were different from the patterns of reference isolates from Asian countries, such as Bangladesh, India, and Thailand, indicating a close genetic relationship or clonal origin of the isolates in the same geographical region. The Asian reference strains, regardless of their biotypes and serogroups (classical O1, El Tor O1, O139, or O151), showed a genetic resemblance, but had different patterns from the strains collected during the two outbreaks in Thailand. Of 200 Ogawa strains collected during the first outbreak in Thailand, two patterns (clones)-PF-I and PF-II-predominated, while other isolates caused sporadic cases and were grouped together as pattern PF-III. PF-II also predominated during the second outbreak, but none of the 40 isolates (39 Inaba and 1 Ogawa) of the second outbreak had the pattern PF-I; a minority showed a new pattern-PF-IV, and others caused single cases, but were not groupable. In summary, this study documented the sustained appearance of the pathogenic V. cholerae
O1 clone PF-II, the disappearance of clones PF-I and PF-III, and the emergence of new pathogenic clones during the two outbreaks of cholera. Data of the study on molecular characteristics of indigenous V. cholerae
clinical isolates have public-health implications, not only for epidemic tracing of existing strains but also for the recognition of strains with new genotypes that may emerge in the future.