Pathogens

Vibrio vulnifiucs – Infection, Transmission & Diseases

Vibrio vulnificus

The bacterial species Vibrio vulnifiucs of the family Vibrionaceae belongs to the order Proteobacteria and falls within the class Gammaproteobacteria and the genus Vibrio . The bacterial species mainly inhabits water bodies and is considered a human pathogen. The bacteria cause subcutaneous inflammation, which can have fatal consequences if the pathogen penetrates the bloodstream.

What is Vibrio vulnifiucs?

Vibrios are bacteria with gram-negative staining behavior, which optionally operate anaerobic metabolism and are referred to as curved rod -shaped bacteria due to their shape. Many species of the genus have unipolar flagella and are therefore able to move actively.

One species among the Vibrios is Vibrio vulnificus. The species is classified as a human pathogen and is closely related to the species Vibrio cholerae , which is also known to cause cholera . Infection with the bacterial species Vibrio vulnificus does not result in cholera, but it can cause sepsis ( blood poisoning ).

This type of bacterial infection became particularly relevant after the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina. At that time, numerous people with Vibrio vulnificus infections were evacuated in New Orleans.

Occurrence, Distribution & Properties

The preferred habitat of bacteria of the species Vibrio vulnificus is water. The bacteria are mainly found in marine environments and colonize estuaries, for example, brackish water ponds or coastal areas. According to a study, the Baltic Sea coast is one of the areas in Germany with the highest Vibrio vulnificus colonization. The low salinity and the strong warming of water in this area appear to be responsible for this.In the water, the bacteria often spread to seafood or other aquatic life. Since zoonosis exists, they can also be transmitted to humans. This can be the case, for example, when consuming contaminated seafood. Eating oysters is particularly dangerous in this context , as they are usually eaten raw.

Open wounds can also provide an entry point for the bacterium. Wounds from swimming and wading, for example, allow the bacteria to enter the human body if the water is contaminated. Another possibility of infection is a stab wound from spiny fish such as tilapia.

Because the bacterial species is facultatively anaerobic, it survives in the absence of oxygen . They grow most rapidly in an oxygen-free environment, since they do not need oxygen for their metabolism. The presence of oxygen does not necessarily kill facultative anaerobes, but tends to make it more difficult for them to grow.

The bacterial species Vibrio vulnificus is always pathogenic. In the human body, the detection is therefore always associated with pathological value, since the bacteria are not to be understood as commensals. This distinguishes them from many other bacteria found in the human body. Commensals bring neither benefit nor harm to man. Pathogenic bacteria such as those of the species Vibrio vulnificus, on the other hand, damage people in favor of their own growth. Therefore, the infection always requires treatment.

The infection is particularly dangerous for immunodeficient patients such as HIV patients , immunosuppressed patients (with an artificially reduced immune system ) or elderly people with an age-related weakness in the immune system. In these cases, infection with Vibrio vulnificus can develop into an acutely life-threatening condition.

Diseases & Ailments

After an infection with Vibrio vulnificus, symptoms of the gastrointestinal tract appear first . In addition to vomiting , these symptoms include, for example, diarrhea . The gastrointestinal complaints of the patients are often associated with more or less severe abdominal pain.The skin symptoms are particularly characteristic of the pathogen Vibrio vulnificus. A blistering dermatitis sets in, which is often misdiagnosed and confused with pemphigus vulgaris . A more or less extensive cellulite is also a common symptom. This is an inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue, which is also noticeable on the surface of the skin in the form described. Lumps can develop.

For people with a weakened immune system, an infected cut or other wound is particularly dangerous. The bacteria enter the bloodstream via the wounds . In healthy people, the resulting bacteremia is immediately fought by the immune system. If the immunological attacks do not occur, bacterial sepsis or septic shock will quickly develop . This systemic inflammatory response can cause circulatory failure or even death.

Infections with Vibrio vulnificus are associated with a relatively high mortality, particularly those that have already caused sepsis. Death often occurs within the first 48 hours after infection. The ideal treatment remains controversial. Third-generation cephalosporin seems to be most effective, for example in the form of ceftriaxone or doxycycline . The bacterial growths on the skin can require surgery or amputation .

Infections with Vibrio vulnificus occur with above-average frequency in men. For men, the risk of shock and thus the general risk of mortality associated with the infection also seems to be increased. Medicine now assumes that female estrogen has a protective effect against Vibrio vulnificus. As a rule, women are less at risk of infection as long as they do not suffer from a hormonal lack of estrogen .

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.