According to a recent study, Vibrio vulnificus infections are becoming more prevalent and are moving further north in the United States. Without action to reduce emissions, the pathogen will expand even further in the next decades, according to the experts, who have connected the rising and spreading infections to climate change.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vibrio vulnificus can cause a life-threatening wound infection (CDC). Eating raw or undercooked seafood or coming into touch with saltwater or brackish water can also result in Vibrio genus infections.
Warmer water and lower salinity both help the disease spread. According to James Oliver, co-author of the study and a biology professor at the University of North Carolina, these circumstances become increasingly favorable to Vibrio vulnificus as a result of global warming.
According to the study, up to 18% of infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus result in death and require surgical tissue excision or limb amputation. Within 48 hours of infection, deaths can happen.
Infections with Vibrio vulnificus in the eastern United States increased eightfold between 1988 and 2018, from around 10 infections per year to about 80 infections per year, according to a study that was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Not only did the infection rate rise throughout that period, but the researchers also saw a northward shift in the location of the cases. North of Georgia was traditionally where instances were not detected, but by 2018, cases were routinely being recorded as far north as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
By 2060, infections may move further north into densely populated New Jersey and New York, and the number of cases may increase by twofold.
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According to the study’s authors, climate change will likely have a significant impact on the distribution and number of V. vulnificus infections in the Eastern United States due to warming coastal waters that favor the presence of bacteria and higher temperatures that encourage more coastal recreation.
By 2100, the researchers predicted that Vibrio vulnificus infections might be found in every state in the eastern United States if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of global warming. According to Elizabeth Archer, the main author of the study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, illnesses may only migrate northward to Connecticut if emissions are reduced.
According to Archer, who was quoted by EurekAlert!, greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are altering our climate, and the effects may be particularly severe on the world’s coastlines because they serve as a significant boundary between human populations and natural ecosystems as well as a major source of disease.
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The researchers pointed out that this knowledge could assist public health officials in getting ready for the spread of Vibrio infections, including developing educational initiatives for at-risk populations and signs to be placed along coastlines when environmental factors favor greater pathogen spread.