Green tea and cholera research
For almost 30 years, green tea cholera research has shown that green tea kills the cholera bacteria, Vibrio cholerae (Ryu, 1980).
But there are still unanswered questions:
Green tea kills cholera
Multiple green tea and cholera studies have shown that green tea by itself kills cholera, apart from the boiled water used to make tea.
In 1980, 3% solutions of green tea (Camellia sinensis), oolong, or black tea all killed Vibrio cholerae and Vibrio parahemorrhagiae within 30 minutes of exposure (Ryu, 1980).
Green tea and cholera studies also confirmed that green tea was bactericidal against Vibrio cholerae 01, Vibrio cholerae non 01, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus at “cup of tea” strength (Toda, 1989, Shetty 1994).
The green tea polyphenol catechins were isolated and three of them (EGCG, EGC, and ECG) were the most effective against Vibrio cholerae 01 (Toda, 1990). EGCG and ECG also protected against hemolysin (a cholera toxin that causes red blood cell rupture) in a dose dependent manner–the more green tea catechins, the better the protection (Toda, 1990, Ikigai, 1990).
Animal studies also showed that these catechins reduced the fluid accumulation (the primary cause of cholera fatality) from cholera toxin (Toda, 1992).
Recently, a green tea and cholera study showed that green tea polyphenol catechins were effective against 27 different strains of cholera (Taguri, 2004).
But to date, all the chemical pathways causing death of cholera bacteria have not been identified.
So we don’t know exactly how green tea kills cholera.
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Cholera kills people with lightning speed
Cholera is a severe intestinal infection from strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
A totally healthy person can drink a few sips of contaminated water, develop massive watery diarrhea, go into hypotensive shock within an hour, and die within three hours if there is no treatment.
When you consume contaminated water, shellfish, or undercooked food, cholera bacteria that survive the stomach’s acidity will penetrate the wall of the small intestine.
The bacteria begin intense reproduction and also generate toxic proteins.
The toxic proteins change the sodium ionic pressure in the intestine which then allows over a gallon of water and electrolytes to flood out of the body within hours.
The massive dehydration creates shock from low blood pressure and rapid death.
Rehydration is mandatory
By all accounts, the most effective treatment is rehydration. Vaccines are being discontinued, and antibiotics seem to have limited benefit.
During modern epidemics, the death toll can be reduced from 50% fatality to under 1% fatality by providing rehydration, either commercial or homemade (1 teaspoon salt plus 8 teaspoons sugar to a gallon of boiled water).
Prevention of cholera is also close to 100% effective with advanced community water treatment, modern sanitation practices, and monitoring of shellfish contamination.
Since there are proven prevention and treatment techniques that can control cholera by almost 100%, there seems to be little interest in green tea and cholera studies in mammals.
So we don’t know if green tea consumption could actually reduce cholera infection outside the laboratory.
Cholera epidemics in tea-drinking countries
Although international cholera pandemics have been recorded since 1816, the primary transmission of cholera in public water supplies was not proven until 1854. By 1885, the cholera bacteria had been officially identified.
Cholera can occur more frequently in areas with poor sanitation and poor water treatment, and among the poor who may not be able to afford daily tea.
Sustained tea drinking is more common in higher socio-economic groups who also have better sanitation and community water treatment. So tracking any prevention benefits from tea would be confused by community procedures.
When a cholera epidemic or international cholera pandemic occurs, no one has time to ask questions about lifestyle choices like habitual tea drinking. For excellent reasons, people concentrate on stopping the spread of the disease, treating the victims, and removing the dead.
Cholera epidemics do occur in tea-drinking countries, but we don’t know if tea drinkers have any additional protection against infection.
The mystery remains unsolved
In the laboratory, green tea and cholera studies clearly show that green tea kills cholera.
But the reality of the disease and its rapid transmission means it could be years before we know if tea might help during an emergency cholera epidemic.
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on January 26, 2013
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