Bacteria causing limb amputation and even death spreads in the US waters

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This Scanning Electron Micrograph Sem Depicts A Flagellated Vibrio Vulnificus Bacterium; Mag. 13184X. 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. V. Vulnificus Can Cause Disease In Those Who Eat Contaminated Seafood Or Have An Open Wound That Is Exposed To Contaminated 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. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

Cases of people getting infected with grave bacteria were reported in the Chesapeake Bay and all over the Gulf Coast. The virus is contacted after consuming or touching raw shellfish.

People contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can suffer from tissue death, which sometimes leads to limb amputations.

Even though the cases are rare in the US, a new case report issued on June the 18th in Annals of Internal Medicine says that the rising temperatures in the ocean may conduct to a bacteria spread to prior untouched waters.

Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease specialist at Cooper University Hospital who co-wrote the report​ said that there were three cases of severe skin infections in 2017 caused by the virus, at their institution. Then, in 2018, there were two more. These cases should be a concern as in years before 2017 there was only one case of infection at the institution.

People can contact the bacteria by touching or eating raw shellfish

Earlier on, the bacteria was contacted after people swam in or came into contact with seafood from the Chesapeake Bay, but it was a scarce chance for this infection to happen farther north, in Delaware Bay. However, that is now possible, as Doktor and her colleagues say. All the five infection cases earlier mentioned occurred after people came into contact with the water in the Delaware Bay or ate crabs in the region.

The V. vulnificus ​causes severe bloodstream infections, along with blood-filled blisters and necrotizing fasciitis​, or, as popularly known, flesh-eating disease, which causes the death of body tissue. These infections can be treated with antibiotics most of the time, but the killed tissue must at times be removed, more precisely, the limb in cause has to be amputated to prevent the infection to spread to other areas in the body. The infection causes death in 20 percent of the cases.

People can get contaminated with the bacteria after eating raw or undercooked shellfish, oysters, in particular, the CDC reports. The Vibrio vulnificus can also infect the skin if an open wound gets in contact with saltwater. Some people were also infected after swimming in the waters of the region.

Of the five people infected, earlier mentioned, three had their affected limb removed, one patient had his hands, and both feet amputated, and one person died.

The bacteria is spreading because the waters get warmer

The authors of the case report explain that the bacteria is spreading because of climate change, in part. Last year was the warmest year ever recorded for the oceans, and the more frequent infections also occurred last year.

Doktor said that the virus thrives in warm salty water, and the cases most occur between late July to October, when the waters of the area are the warmest.


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