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The carnivorous bacterium Vibrio vulnificus is taking over new territories. It’s the fault of climate change. Research report

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The “carnivorous” bacterium Vibrio vulnificus, which causes tissue necrosis, may soon spread to other regions. Research indicates that new cases are appearing further north. If climate change continues, the bacterium could take over the entire east coast of the US by the end of the 21st century. Do such pathogens also threaten bathers in the Baltic Sea?

Bacteria Vibrio vulnificus they live in warm, shallow coastal waters. These pathogens can infect minor wounds when in contact with seawater, and once they enter the body, they spread quickly throughout the body. Chemical compounds secreted by them lead to tissue necrosis, especially in the trunk and limbs. In extreme cases, amputation is necessary, and untreated infection leads to death.

The number of infections in the United States is growing year by year, and according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, they may soon number in the hundreds.

Danger all over the US coast

An international group of scientists analyzed cases of infection V. vulnificus along the East Coast of the United States, focusing on case numbers and locations. The researchers then used climate models to predict how the pathogen’s range would expand in the future.

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The data they collected shows that the number of infections has increased over the last 30 years V. vulnificus in the study region has increased from 10 cases a year to 80. What’s more, cases are spreading further north. In the 1980s, they were confined to the Gulf of Mexico and the southern part of the East Coast, but now cases are appearing as far north as Philadelphia, very close to New York.

– Infections V. vulnificus will continue to expand further north, but how far will depend on the degree of warming and therefore greenhouse gas emissions, explained Elizabeth Archer of the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study. – If (gas emissions – ed.) stay low, then pathogens will reach Connecticut. However, if they are high, infections can occur in any state on the east coast. By the end of the 21st century, we predict that 140-200 cases could be reported each year, the researcher said.

Vibrio vulnificus, laboratory cultureShutterstock

Awareness and prevention

Archer explained that the obtained results show how important it is to be aware of the threat. Prompt action at the onset of symptoms can prevent serious health consequences. Beachgoers could be informed about the threat through early warning systems and appropriate coastal markings.

– Observation that cases V. vulnificus extending north along the east coast of the United States indicates the impact that climate change is already having on human health, explained Iain Lake of the University of East Anglia, co-author of the study. “Knowing where cases of infection may occur in the future will be valuable for medical services,” he confirmed.

As Archer added, the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions can be particularly felt on coasts, which are the main boundary between natural ecosystems and human populations. It is in these zones that the most dangerous pathogens develop.

Adam Ziemienowicz/PAP

Vibrio bacteria in the Baltic Sea

So far, rare cases of bacterial infection V. vulnificus have also been reported in the Baltic Sea. The media wrote about the most serious in September 2021. The incident happened several kilometers away Świnoujście. 30-year-old resident Miedzyzdroje He was taken to the ICU of a hospital in critical condition. – The warming of the Baltic water, which is taking place the fastest of all reservoirs of this type in the world, together with the ever-lower salinity, favors the proliferation of vibrates, especially when the water temperature exceeds 20 degrees C. – explained Prof. dr hab. n. med. Waleria Hryniewicz, a specialist in the field of medical microbiology, in an interview with medonet.pl.

The threat of vibrio vibrios was one of the topics addressed by the authors international report “The link between climate change and infectious diseases”. The study emphasizes that they can occur in the Baltic Sea and cause gastroenteritis, as well as wound infections and sepsis. In 2018 – it was reported – there were as many as 107 days on the Baltic coast suitable for vibrio development.

– If the average air temperature in a given region increases, then the surface water warms up. Therefore, when we have several or several days with very high air temperature, the temperature of the water increases. Bacteria and viruses more adapted to warmer conditions may appear in such water, explained Dr. Aneta Afelt, one of the authors of the report, in an interview with PAP.

Before the so-called Polish sanitary services warn about vibriosis. “If you have even minor wounds or cuts, contact with sea water should be avoided, especially during hot periods, which are conducive to the development of vibrio vibrios. Before entering the water, the wounds should be carefully secured with a waterproof dressing. In the event of contact with sea water, the wound should be thoroughly washed with clean with soap and water,” the health department recommends.

Vibriosis – what is worth knowing>>>

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University of East Anglia, PAP, medonet.pl, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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