Local expert discusses vibrio bacteria

Vibrio bacteria, occasionally mislabeled as the ‘flesh eating bacteria,’ is in its peak season.

Vibrio naturally lives in certain coastal waters like the Gulf of Mexico and is present in higher concentrations between May and October when water temperatures are warmer. Yesterday, health officials confirmed the second case of vibrio vulnificus in Mobile County.

Although vibrio is known as the most common bacteria in the ocean causing human and fish disease, Dr. Darrell Jay Grimes, a local expert on the subject, says this feared bacteria also plays an important role in the marine ecosystem. “Yeah, they do some destructive things, but they also do some very helpful things in terms of breaking down material decomposing material when it dies. So, when fish die, marine plants die, these vibrio and other bacteria destroy the dead material and decompose it and put it back into the carbon chain.”

Dr. Grimes says individuals with suppressed immune systems are particularly at risk to becoming ill if they contract vibrio. He says they can lower the risk of becoming infected by not eating raw or under-cooked shellfish and avoiding swimming in brackish and estuarial water if you have any broken skin.

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