Research – Correlation of High Seawater Temperature with Vibrio and Shewanella Infections, Denmark, 2010–2018



During 2010–2018 in Denmark, 638 patients had Vibrio infections diagnosed and 521 patients had Shewanella infections diagnosed. Most cases occurred in years with high seawater temperatures. The substantial increase in those infections, with some causing septicemia, calls for clinical awareness and mandatory notification policies.

Vibrio and Shewanella spp. bacteria cause a variety of human infections, including wound infections, ear infections, septicemia, and gastroenteritis (1). Domestically acquired Vibrio and Shewanella infections occur only sporadically in countries in northern Europe because the coastal seawater temperature tends to be too cold to support growth and high bacterial pathogen concentration levels (2,3). However, the warming of low-salinity coastal waters of the Baltic Sea has promoted the growth of Vibrio and Shewanella spp. and consequently increased the risk of disease for humans exposed to such seawater (4). In the unusually warm summer of 1994 in Denmark, several V. vulnificus and S. algae infections were seen among patients who reported bathing in seawater (5,6). Furthermore, during 2014–2018, more than 1,055 cases of vibriosis were reported in northern Europe countries, including Denmark (7).

Considering the annual increase in infections during recent summer seasons in Denmark and the recurring heatwaves across Europe, this emerging public health threat requires more investigation to provide decision-makers with evidence for action. The aim of our nationwide study was to describe the distribution of Vibrio and Shewanella infections in Denmark during 2010–2018 and investigate a possible correlation between infections and sea surface temperature.

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