Vibrio Infection
The CDC estimates that vibrio causes 80,000 cases of infection annually in the United States.

Several Vibrio species can cause infections in humans, but the following four are responsible for most illnesses:

  1. V. cholera
  2. V. vulnificus
  3. V. parahaemolyticus
  4. V. alginolyticus

Two ways Vibrio can infect human beings

  1. Eating undercooked or raw seafood
    • Vibrio infections are frequently caused by eating raw or undercooked seafood, such as:
      • Oysters
      • Mussels
      • Clams
      • Scallops
  2. Open wound
    • When wounds (open cut or scrape) are exposed to contaminated seawater, vibrio infection can occur.
    • Because of the toxins it produces, Vibrio vulnificus has been dubbed a “flesh-eating bacteria.”
    • Reports suggest that this rare and tragic bacterium may infect open wounds, resulting in progressive flesh destruction and the need for limb amputation.

Who is at a risk of vibrio infection?

Anyone can get vibrio infection (vibriosis), but some factors may increase the risk of getting infected or developing a serious disease.

Risk factors for vibrio infection include:

  • Older persons
  • Young children
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Individuals with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or liver disease (hepatitis C or cirrhosis), are more likely to develop illness and experience more severe symptoms
  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Many with vibriosis indicated a recent history of travel to developing countries

Vibrio can be found in salt water or brackish water. Infections are more likely to occur from May to October when the water temperature is higher.

What are the common signs and symptoms of vibrio infection?

After vibrio enters the body, it usually takes one to three days for the person to become ill. Healthy adults who consume raw shellfish usually do not get ill or suffer only mild illness when exposed to vibrio.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following as early indicators of vibrio infection:

If you contracted a V vulnificus infection through an open wound, you may develop a skin infection or bloodstream infection called septicemia. Symptoms include:

Open wound exposure to vibrio bacteria can lead to swelling, redness, and pain near the wound site. Bloodstream infections are more common in immunocompromised people. In severe cases, septic shock occurs, increasing the likelihood of death.

SLIDESHOW

Bacterial Infections 101: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments See Slideshow

What are the treatment options for vibrio infection?

Treatment is not required in most cases of vibriosis because the symptoms tend to be mild. However, symptomatic and aggressive treatment could be prescribed by doctors depending on symptoms, age, and underlying medical conditions.

Symptomatic treatment

  • To replace fluids lost due to diarrhea, people should drink plenty of fluids
  • Symptoms of food poisoning could be treated with rest, optimal hydration and if necessary, antibiotics
  • Choose water and other clear liquids until you feel better; take frequent sips of rehydration drinks
  • When you feel like eating again, start with small amounts of food to get enough nutrition

Antibiotics

  • Could be necessary for severe or prolonged illness
  • Your doctor may prescribe suitable antibiotics for you based on the organism's antimicrobial susceptibilities

Surgical intervention

  • In the event of a wound infection, surgical intervention could be required. Wound infections can be deadly and must be treated as soon as possible
  • To relieve fluid or pus buildup and reduce swelling, the doctor may choose to open and drain the infected abscess beneath the skin
  • Drainage is mostly used when the infection is severe

Sepsis protocol

  • When a person has an infection that results in sepsis, they are admitted to the hospital immediately, typically to the intensive care unit (ICU)
  • They will receive antibiotics intravenously (IV), typically in addition to IV fluids
  • Medications could be administered to raise blood pressure if it is too low
  • Additionally, oxygen or breathing support could be needed
  • Dialysis is done when kidney failure is present

Prevention

  • Avoid eating raw or uncooked seafood
  • Avoid wounds coming into contact with sea or brackish water
  • Cover wounds with a waterproof bandage.
  • Clean wounds thoroughly with soap and water if exposed to brackish water or seawater

The goal of treatment is aggressive wound therapy and correction of any complications that may have developed (such as changes in fluid and electrolyte levels). The antibiotic treatment used to control the infection varies.

According to some studies, the most effective, fast-acting treatment is a combination of cephalosporin or ampicillin and an aminoglycoside combined with appropriate surgical therapy.

What is the outcome of vibrio infection?

In healthy people, the outcome is generally good.

The outcome of vibrio infection depends on:

  • Age
  • Medical history
  • General health
  • Timely diagnosis
  • The severity of complications (such as sepsis)

Although antibiotics can typically control the infection, antibiotic resistance is making them less of a reliable treatment option overall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that vibrio causes 80,000 cases of infection annually in the United States. The effects of vibrio entering the bloodstream can be fatal. In the U.S., vibriosis causes about 100 fatalities each year.

When healthy people consume vibrio-contaminated food, they may experience gut symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. This is usually self-limiting. Depending on the type of vibrio and the person's immunity, it can be severe. You are especially at risk if you have immune-compromising conditions. Data suggests that vibrio infection is 80 times more likely to affect people with liver disease, and they are 200 times more likely to die from it.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/11/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

Vibrio Species Causing Vibriosis. https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/index.html

VIBRIOSIS (NON-CHOLERA). https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/vibriosis-non-cholera/

FAQ: What To Know About Dangerous Vibrio Bacteria. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20190705/faq-what-to-know-about-dangerous_vibrio-bacteria