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Vibrios and Aeromonas

There are many similarities in the Vibrionaceae that cause human illness in the United States (see Table 1). Vibrios are characteristically indigenous to marine, estuarine, and brackish environments. They are distributed mainly in Gulf of Mexico coastal water, and these organisms 'bloom' when the water is warm. Outbreaks of disease in humans frequently occur in summer, coinciding with multiplication of vibrios in warm water. Sporadic cases and small outbreaks of cholera continue to occur in persons living on or near the Gulf of Mexico, but infection in most persons is unrecognized. In fact, more serious and frequent illnesses result from V. vulnificus wound infections and from gastroenteritis caused by vibrios other than V. cholerae 01. Underlying hepatic or neoplastic disease (especially leukemia) apparently increases the likelihood and severity of illnesses caused by V. vulnificus and Aeromonas. Some Vibrionaceae produce clinical illness by means of enterotoxins identical or similar to cholera toxin. For many others, hemolysins, cytotoxins, and other exotoxins are necessary to produce disease; the importance of these virulence factors often is not known or the importance of these virulence factors often is not known or is of doubtful significance. Also, purported pathogenicity as demonstrated by animal models, such as fluid accumulation in ligated ileal loops, is quite nonspecific and needs to be interpreted cautiously. For Plesiomonas, a mode of pathogenesis has not been discovered. Eating raw shellfish (frequently raw oysters) has been linked epidemiologically to enteric infections with most of these bacteria; foreign travel and exposure to seawater are other frequently observed epidemiologic associations with infection. Foreign travel, particularly to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, has been strongly associated with the acquisition of non-01 V. cholerae and Plesiomonas organisms. Most Vibrionaceae in the United States are susceptible in vitro--and illnesses from them are responsive--to tetracycline, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and other common antimicrobial agents. However, as for other bacteria that cause diarrhea, the main treatment for uncomplicated disease is the judicious replacement of fluids and electrolytes lost in diarrhea. A loose network of surveilance for these organisms comprises hospital and public health laboratories in Gulf coastal states that plate diarrheal stools on TCBS agar. As recognized pathogens are more assiduously screened for, and as newly identified vibrios are definitely included or excluded as enteric pathogens, the clinical importance of these members of the Vibrionaceae family should become clearer


Holmberg, S. (1988). Vibrios and Aeromonas. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, 2(3), 655-676.