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Minor Vibrio and Vibrio-like species associated with human disease

J Glenn Morris, Jr, MD, MPHTM
Section Editor
Stephen B Calderwood, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Vibrios are ubiquitous environmental Gram-negative rods, with well over 100 species currently recognized. Among these species, 10 have been isolated from humans. The species responsible for the most serious diseases are Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae O1/O139 strains causing the disease cholera and other V. cholerae strains linked with diarrhea, wound infections, and septicemia), Vibrio parahaemolyticus, and Vibrio vulnificus.

Four additional species (Vibrio mimicus, Vibrio fluvialis, Vibrio furnissii, Vibrio alginolyticus) clearly have pathogenic potential for humans but cause illness that generally is less severe. Two closely related species that were originally classified in the genus Vibrio but have undergone a change in name on the basis of recent taxonomic studies, Grimontia hollisae (formerly Vibrio hollisae) [1], and Photobacterium damselae subspecies damselae (formerly Vibrio damselae) [2], are also established human pathogens. Three species (Vibrio metschnikovii, Vibrio cincinnatiensis, and Vibrio carchariae [3-7]) have primarily been the subject of case reports, and their significance as human pathogens remains to be determined. A new species, Vibrio metoecus, within the V. cholerae-V. mimicus clade, has been identified in stool and blood samples from patients; its role as a human pathogen is uncertain [8].

This topic discusses the microbiology, epidemiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis and treatment of the six minor Vibrio and Vibrio-like species that have been associated with human disease. Infections due to the major Vibrio species are discussed elsewhere. (See "Overview of cholera" and "Infections due to non-O1/O139 Vibrio cholerae" and "Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections" and "Vibrio vulnificus infections".)


All Vibrio species are free-living microorganisms in marine and estuarine environments. They are sensitive to temperature, with numbers of microorganisms in the environment increasing during warmer, summer months [9]. The number of Vibrio species isolated from human infections in the United States and reported to the Center for Disease Control clearly increases during the months of May to September, with 40 to 47 percent of cases occurring in July and August [10,11].

Vibrio species are associated mainly with gastroenteritis, wound infection, and occasionally bacteremia. V. mimicus, V. fluvialis, V. furnissii, and G. hollisae primarily cause gastroenteritis. V. alginolyticus and P. damselae primarily cause wound infections. The frequency and complications of these infections vary by species (table 1) [11]. In the United States, the numbers of cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and identified through CDC’s FoodNet surveillance system have shown a steady increase over the past two decades [10]; this increase is reflected in data for V. alginolyticus for 1996 to 2010 (figure 1).

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 18, 2017.
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