Heatwave-associated Vibrio infections in Germany, 2018 and 2019
Brehm, Thomas Theo
Martins, Meike Sena
the German Vibrio Study Group
Background: Vibrio spp. are aquatic bacteria that prefer warm seawater with moderate salinity. In humans, they can cause gastroenteritis, wound infections, and ear infections. During the summers of 2018 and 2019, unprecedented high sea surface temperatures were recorded in the German Baltic Sea. Aim: We aimed to describe the clinical course and microbiological characteristics of Vibrio infections in Germany in 2018 and 2019. Methods: We performed an observational retrospective multi-centre cohort study of patients diagnosed with domestically-acquired Vibrio infections in Germany in 2018 and 2019. Demographic, clinical, and microbiological data were assessed, and isolates were subjected to whole genome sequencing and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Results: Of the 63 patients with Vibrio infections, most contracted the virus between June and September, primarily in the Baltic Sea: 44 (70%) were male and the median age was 65 years (range: 2–93 years). Thirty-eight patients presented with wound infections, 16 with ear infections, six with gastroenteritis, two with pneumonia (after seawater aspiration) and one with primary septicaemia. The majority of infections were attributed to V. cholerae (non–O1/non-O139) (n = 30; 48%) or V. vulnificus (n = 22; 38%). Phylogenetic analyses of 12 available isolates showed clusters of three identical strains of V. vulnificus, which caused wound infections, suggesting that some clonal lines can spread across the Baltic Sea. Conclusions: During the summers of 2018 and 2019, severe heatwaves facilitated increased numbers of Vibrio infections in Germany. Since climate change is likely to favour the proliferation of these bacteria, a further increase in Vibrio-associated diseases is expected.
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