Climate warming and increasing Vibrio vulnificus infections in North America

Sci Rep. 2023 Mar 23;13(1):3893. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-28247-2.

Abstract

Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen, occurring in warm low-salinity waters. V. vulnificus wound infections due to seawater exposure are infrequent but mortality rates are high (~ 18%). Seawater bacterial concentrations are increasing but changing disease pattern assessments or climate change projections are rare. Here, using a 30-year database of V. vulnificus cases for the Eastern USA, changing disease distribution was assessed. An ecological niche model was developed, trained and validated to identify links to oceanographic and climate data. This model was used to predict future disease distribution using data simulated by seven Global Climate Models (GCMs) which belong to the newest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). Risk was estimated by calculating the total population within 200 km of the disease distribution. Predictions were generated for different "pathways" of global socioeconomic development which incorporate projections of greenhouse gas emissions and demographic change. In Eastern USA between 1988 and 2018, V. vulnificus wound infections increased eightfold (10-80 cases p.a.) and the northern case limit shifted northwards 48 km p.a. By 2041-2060, V. vulnificus infections may expand their current range to encompass major population centres around New York (40.7°N). Combined with a growing and increasingly elderly population, annual case numbers may double. By 2081-2100 V. vulnificus infections may be present in every Eastern USA State under medium-to-high future emissions and warming. The projected expansion of V. vulnificus wound infections stresses the need for increased individual and public health awareness in these areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Vibrio Infections* / epidemiology
  • Vibrio vulnificus*
  • Wound Infection*

Supplementary concepts

  • Vibrio vulnificus infection