The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) states on its website that users of cannabis are “more susceptible to cholera infection”. However, cannabis has been used throughout history to both treat and prevent cholera. Does IAMAT have its facts wrong, or is there a deeper relationship at work?
Cholera is a bacterial illness that primarily affects the small intestine, causing watery diarrhoea and vomiting. If left untreated, it can lead to extreme dehydration and can be fatal. Cholera is caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, and is transmitted by ingesting contaminated water or food.
Diarrhoea and vomiting occur due to the action of a toxic protein (known as the cholera toxin, or CT) secreted by the bacterium. It stimulates the cells of the small intestine and causes them to exude a clear, watery liquid in huge quantities.
How is cholera transmitted?
An infected person may produce 10-20 litres of diarrhoea per day, leading to severe dehydration. The diarrhoea acts as a reproductive vehicle. It contains new generations of the bacterium, which in areas with poor sanitation, may end up in the water supply where they can infect a new…