March 2024

Page 36

VIBRIO BACTERIA A Potentially Deadly but Preventable Threat to Anglers & Beachgoers STORY BY MICHAEL WETZ, PHD CHAIR FOR COASTAL ECOSYSTEM PROCESSES, HARTE RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR GULF OF MEXICO STUDIES, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY-CORPUS CHRISTI RAY FRISBIE, PHD PROFESSOR EMERITUS, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY JAMES MOBLEY, MD, MPH, FAAP MEDICAL DIRECTOR, HEALTHY SOUTH TEXAS PROGRAM, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY

W

hat is Vibrio, and why should it matter to you? Vibrio is a naturally occurring halophilic (“salt liking”) bacteria that is found in all of our bays as well as coastal waters here in Texas. If you’ve been in saltwater, you’ve encountered Vibrio. Depending on the location and time of year, a single drop of seawater can contain 100 or more Vibrio cells. Vibrio encompasses a number of different species, but when most people hear “Vibrio”, they think about the rare but traumatic flesh and limb destruction that it can cause, colloquially referring to it as “flesh eating bacteria”. If you are an angler or commercial harvester, you may know someone who has been affected by a Vibrio infection. All told, there are approximately 12 species of Vibrio that can cause illness in humans through either consumption of contaminated seafood or infection of open wounds. This article focuses on Vibrio vulnificus, a species that causes wound infections – when and where the risk is most pronounced, how you can reduce risk, and what to do if you suspect that you have been exposed. It is our hope that the information here will be useful to anglers, seafood processors, commercial harvesters and beachgoers who venture out into our local marine waters. How can you be exposed to Vibrio? Infection starts when Vibrio enters the body through open wounds that range from cuts on the body to something as small as a piercing, mosquito bite, or puncture from a fishhook or fin. The risk is very low if you do not have an obvious open wound but increases if you do. Healthy individuals can become infected, but risk is usually much higher in those individuals with compromised immune systems that have chronic liver disease, diabetes, or elevated iron levels. The most common activities by which people become infected are swimming, fishing, or handling raw seafood (Figure 1). 34 | March 2024


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.