What is Vibrio vulnificus?
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt. Top of Page
What type of illness does V. vulnificus cause?
V. vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to seawater. Among healthy people, ingestion of V. vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In immunocompromised persons, particularly those with chronic liver disease, V. vulnificus can infect the bloodstream, causing a severe and life-threatening illness characterized by fever and chills, decreased blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin lesions. V. vulnificus bloodstream infections are fatal about 50% of the time. V. vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications. Top of Page
How common is V. vulnificus infection?
V. vulnificus is a rare cause of disease, but it is also underreported. Between 1988 and 2006, CDC received reports of more than 900 V. vulnificus infections from the Gulf Coast states, where most cases occur. Before 2007, there was no national surveillance system for V. vulnificus, but CDC collaborated with the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi to monitor the number of cases of V. vulnificus infection in the Gulf Coast region. In 2007, infections caused by V. vulnificus and other Vibrio species became nationally notifiable. Top of Page
How do persons get infected with V. vulnificus?
Persons who are immunocompromised, especially those with chronic liver disease, are at risk for V. vulnificus when they eat raw seafood, particularly oysters. A recent study showed that people with these pre-existing medical conditions were 80 times more likely to develop V. vulnificus bloodstream infections than were healthy people. The bacterium is frequently isolated from oysters and other shellfish in warm coastal waters during the summer months. Since it is naturally found in warm marine waters, people with open wounds can be exposed to V. vulnificus through direct contact with seawater. There is no evidence for person-to-person transmission of V. vulnificus. Top of Page
How can V. vulnificus infection be diagnosed?
V. vulnificus infection Is diagnosed by stool, wound, or blood cultures. Notifying the laboratory when this infection is suspected helps because a special growth medium should be used to increase the diagnostic yield. Doctors should have a high suspicion for this organism when patients present with gastrointestinal illness, fever, or shock following the ingestion of raw seafood, especially oysters, or with a wound infection after exposure to seawater. Top of Page
How is V. vulnificus infection treated?
If V. vulnificus is suspected, treatment should be initiated immediately because antibiotics improve survival. Aggressive attention should be given to the wound site; amputation of the infected limb is sometimes necessary. Clinical trials for the management of V. vulnificus infection have not been conducted. The antibiotic recommendations below come from documents published by infectious disease experts; they are based on case reports and animal models. * Culture of wound or hemorrhagic bullae is recommended, and all V. vulnificus isolates should be forwarded to a public health laboratory * Blood cultures are recommended if the patient is febrile, has hemorrhagic bullae, or has any signs of sepsis * Antibiotic therapy:
* Doxycycline (100 mg PO/IV twice a day for 7-14 days) and a third-generation cephalosporin (e.g.,ceftazidime 1-2 g IV/IM every eight hours) is generally recommended...
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