O139 organisms isolated from different parts of India and from Bangladesh were characterised with respect to their haemagglutination (HA) activity, plasmid content, cholera toxin (CT) production, cell surface protein and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) profiles, and antigenic properties. Of 28 O139 isolates tested, 14 (50%) were shown to agglutinate chicken erythrocytes; the HA activity was sensitive to D-mannose 0.1 %. In parallel experiments, 12 (92.3%) of 13 O1 (El Tor) and 12 (75%) of 16 non-O1, non-O139 strains agglutinated chicken erythrocytes. Plasmid analysis of 32 O139 isolates showed that 12 (37.5%) carried one or more plasmids of 35.8-2.6 MDa. Plasmids were not detected in any of the O1 strains, although plasmids were demonstrable in 35% of the non-O1, non-O139 strains tested. O139 isolates showed an ability to produce CT that depended on media composition and other cultural conditions. A comparison of envelope and outer-membrane protein profiles between O1 and O139 isolates failed to show any significant differences. LPS analysis of O139 isolates revealed that these organisms were devoid of long “O” side-chain polysaccharides. Some of the non-O1, non-O139 strains also showed similar LPS profiles whereas others showed the presence of long repetitive “O” side-chain polysaccharides similar to those seen in O1 organisms. An antiserum raised against O1 strain O395 did not show any significant reactivity towards O139 and non-O1, non-O139 strains although it reacted with other O1 strains. Furthermore, the anti-O1 serum induced marked protection against challenge with an O1 strain but not with an O139 strain in passive protection experiments. All these results indicate that, despite sharing some common properties with O1, the O139 isolates posses certain characteristics that make them distinct from their O1 counterparts.


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