Vibrio vulnificus: Review of Mild to Life-threatening Skin Infections

Cutis. 2021 Feb;107(2):E12-E17. doi: 10.12788/cutis.0183.


Vibrio vulnificus is a motile, gram-negative, halophilic, aquatic bacterium that is part of the normal estuarine microbiome and typically is found in warm coastal waters. Infection with the pathogen typically is due to consumption of contaminated seafood or exposure to contaminated seawater. Vibrio vulnificus has a mortality rate of almost 33% in the United States and is responsible for more than 95% of seafood-related deaths in the United States. Vibrio vulnificus can cause a vast spectrum of diseases, such as gastroenteritis, cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, and sepsis. Gastroenteritis is self-limited, whereas septicemia often is fatal. Gastroenteritis and septicemia are caused by ingestion of contaminated shellfish, whereas wound infections and necrotizing fasciitis are caused by exposure to contaminated seawater or handling of contaminated seafood. Septicemia is the most common presentation of V vulnificus and accounts for the most fatalities from the bacteria. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent mortality. It is important to keep V vulnificus on the differential when a patient presents with bullae or cellulitis or has a history of raw seafood consumption or exposure to brackish water, as missing the diagnosis could lead to necrotizing fasciitis, sepsis, and death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cellulitis / diagnosis
  • Cellulitis / therapy
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing* / diagnosis
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing* / epidemiology
  • Fasciitis, Necrotizing* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Sepsis*
  • Vibrio Infections* / diagnosis
  • Vibrio Infections* / epidemiology
  • Vibrio Infections* / therapy
  • Vibrio vulnificus*