Flesh Eating Bacteria Facts Myths and Precautions

Climate change could lead to ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria being found in new areas, experts claim

Vibrio vulnificus, a so-called flesh-eating bacteria, is being found in new areas and it all could be due to climate change.

It was found in recent years in the Delaware Bay and could be because the water temperatures are getting warmer, a new study found, according to CNN.

Normally, it is found in the southeast U.S, according to Time.

Five people have been treated for vibrio at a New Jersey hospital. They all picked up the bacteria from areas where it is not normally found.

Under a high magnification of 26367X, this digitally-colorized scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicted a flagellated Vibrio vulnificus bacterium.
Photo: CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

The bacteria live in brackish water, where salt and fresh water mix, Time reported.

Four of the patients treated by Dr. Katherine Doktor, an infectious disease specialist, and co-author of the study, survived. One died, CNN reported.

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The warm water temperatures have changed the “quantity, distribution and seasonal windows of bacteria” along the coast and have given vibrio “more favorable conditions,” Doktor wrote in the study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Since there have been a few cases of vibrio in the New Jersey area, Cape May County has listed signs and symptoms for the disease to make people aware that while not typical, they could be exposed to the bacteria. 

One man, who had not visited the Delaware Bay, but worked at a New Jersey restaurant that may have served seafood harvested from the bay developed vibrio. He was eventually released from the hospital. Another man, who had cleaned and eaten crabs caught in Delaware Bay, died after multiple surgeries and his heart began to beat erratically, CNN reported. Three other people were diagnosed with vibrio after crabbing. 

Some experts, though, say the five cases are not enough to confirm that climate change is the cause of vibrio being found in the area.

Dr. Stephen Spann said that it is suggestive that climate change could have caused it, but it could be caused by the level of salt in the water or even the presence of pollution in the water, CNN reported.

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