Treatment of Cholera-Like Diarrhoea With Oral Rehydration

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Cholera diarrhoea remains a major global health problem that has caused seven pandemics. The pathogenesis of cholera is attributable to the production of cholera toxin by the causative pathogen, Vibrio cholerae. The toxin causes increased production of cyclic adenosine monophosphate and this results in massive water and electrolyte secretion into the intestinal lumen. These changes manifest clinically as the painless defecation of voluminous stools that resemble 'rice water', leading to severe dehydration. The cornerstone in the management of cholera diarrhoea is the use of oral rehydration solutions (ORS) to replace the water and electrolytes lost as stools. The World Health Organization recommends the use of ORS of 'reduced osmolarity' for the treatment of acute non-cholera diarrhoea and the use of rice-based ORS for the management of cholera diarrhoea. Although several attempts have been made to improve ORS, studies to evaluate some of the modifications, which include the addition of amylase-resistant starch, the use of amino acids (such as glycine, alanine and glutamine) as sodium cotransporters, and zinc-supplemented ORS, are still needed.