Aeromonas caviae mimicking Vibrio cholerae infectious enteropathy in a cholera-endemic region with possible public health consequences: two case reports

Marco van Zwetselaar, Balthazar Nyombi, Tolbert Sonda, Happiness Kumburu, Nyasatu Chamba, Marieke C. J. Dekker, Kajiru G. Kilonzo, Sarah J. Urasa and Blandina T. MmbagaEmail authorView ORCID ID profile
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Aeromonas species have been documented to yield false positive results in microbiological tests for Vibrio cholerae. They share many biochemical properties with Vibrio species, with which they were jointly classified in the family Vibrionaceae until genotypic information provided new insights. Aeromonas species are increasingly associated with gastrointestinal infections, albeit with great apparent variation in pathogenicity and virulence both between and within species of the genus. We report two cases with clinically mild cholera-like symptoms, at a time when a cholera outbreak was unfolding in other regions of the country (Tanzania). These are the first cases to be reported with Aeromonas mimicking cholera in our area.

Case presentation

Two patients were admitted at the isolation unit designated by the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre for emerging infectious diseases and provided informed consent about regular stool analysis and culture under the provisional diagnosis of gastroenteritis. The first patient was a 23-year-old black African woman with a 2-day history of watery diarrhea and vomiting associated with a temperature of 39.7 °C. The second patient was a 47-year-old black African woman with a 2-day history of diarrhea and vomiting with a temperature of 37.7 °C, and she was hemodynamically stable. Both patients were isolated in a specific area for infection control and treated with fluids and orally administered rehydration solution, ciprofloxacin, metronidazole, and paracetamol. Stool culture was done. The isolated colonies were reported as V. cholerae and transferred to the research laboratory of Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute for confirmation using whole genome sequencing. Microbiological testing determined colonies isolated from stool to be V. cholerae, and warranted the conclusion “presumptive cholera.” Whole genome sequencing, however, established the presence of Aeromonas caviae rather than V. cholerae.


The co-existence of Aeromonas species with V. cholerae in cholera-endemic regions suggests the possibility that a proportion of suspected cholera cases may be Aeromonasinfections. However, with close to no epidemiological data available on Aeromonasinfection in cases of diarrhea and dysentery in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is not currently possible to establish the extent of misdiagnosis to any degree of certainty. Whole genome sequencing was shown to readily exclude V. cholerae as the etiological agent and establish the presence of Aeromonas species.