Vibrio vulnificus is a species of Gram-negative, motile, curved, rod-shaped bacteria of the Vibrio Genus. Hollis et al. first reported it in 1976. It was given the name Beneckea vulnifica by Reichelt et al. in 1976 and in 1979 Vibrio vulnificus by Farmer. V. vulnificus is related to V. cholerae and is present in marine environments such as estuaries, brackish ponds, or coastal areas.
It causes an infection often incurred after eating seafood, especially raw or undercooked oysters. It can also enter through open wound or via puncture wounds. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a blistering dermatitis that is sometimes mistaken for pemphigus or pemphigoid. An infected cut with Vibrio bacteria can quickly become worse and spread into the bloodstream. Death can even occur.
Wound infections have a mortality of ca. 25%. The majority of patients that ingest the disease die within the first 48 hours of infection. Optimal treatment is not known although use of third-generation cephalosporin and a tetracycline was associated with an improved outcome. Clinical trials are needed to confirm this finding. In vitro data supports the supposition that this combination is synergistic against Vibrio vulnificus. It often creates large, disfiguring ulcers that require extensive debridement or even amputation. The worst prognosis is in those patients that arrive at hospitals in a state of shock. Total mortality in treated patients is around 33%.
Patients with liver disease and immunocompromised states are much more vulnerable to the disease. These cases usually enter the bloodstream where it may cause fever, chills, septic shock, and blistering skin lesions. Around half of those who contract blood infections die.
Vibrio Vulnificus infections infect a disproportionately affect males and around 85% of those that develop endotoxic shock from the bacteria are male. Females with oophorectomy experience higher mortality rates as estrogen has been shown to have a protective effect against V. vulnificus. Many evacuees from New Orleans were identified as infected with V. vulnificus.