Atlas of foodborne infections
transmitted by contaminated food and water

Atlas of Patogens Contents Information sources Glossary Administration

Vibrio vulnificus

CZ: vibrio

Fish and Fish Products
Water and Beverages


Foodborne Disease:
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wound infections, gastroenteritis, or a syndrome known as "primary septicemia."

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Vibrio vulnificus, a lactose-fermenting, halophilic, gram-negative, opportunistic pathogen, is found in estuarine environments and associated with various marine species such as plankton, shellfish (oysters, clams, and crabs), and finfish.

Environmental factors responsible for controlling members of V. vulnificus in seafood and in the environment include temperature, pH, salinity, and increased dissolved organics.

This organism causes wound infections, gastroenteritis, or a syndrome known as "primary septicemia." Wound infections result either from contaminating an open wound with sea water harbouring the organism, or by lacerating part of the body on coral, fish, etc., followed by contamination with the organism.

The ingestion of V. vulnificus by healthy individuals can result in gastroenteritis. The "primary septicemia" form of the disease follows consumption of raw seafood containing the organism by individuals with underlying chronic disease, particularly liver disease. In these individuals, the microorganism enters the blood stream, resulting in septic shock, rapidly followed by death in many cases (about 50%). Over 70% of infected individuals have distinctive bulbous skin lesions.

The culturing of the organism from wounds, diarrheic stools, or blood is diagnostic of this illness. No major outbreaks of illness have been attributed to this organism. Sporadic cases occur frequently, becoming more prevalent during the warmer months. In healthy individuals, gastroenteritis usually occurs within 16 hours of ingesting the organism.

Ingestion of the organism by individuals with some type of chronic underlying disease may cause the "primary septicemia" form of illness. The mortality rate for individuals with this form of the disease is over 50%. All individuals who consume foods contaminated with this organism are susceptible to gastroenteritis.

Individuals with diabetes, cirrhosis, or leukemia, or those who take immunosuppressive drugs or steroids are particularly susceptible to primary septicemia.


Vibrio vulnificus
Source: A magnified view of - Vibrio vulnificus scan microscopy

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