Tag Archives: estuarine habitats

Research – Sediment and Vegetation as Reservoirs of Vibrio vulnificus in the Tampa Bay Estuary and Gulf of Mexico

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

The opportunistic pathogen Vibrio vulnificus occurs naturally in estuarine habitats and is readily cultured from water and oysters under warm conditions but infrequently at ambient conditions of <15°C. The presence of V. vulnificus in other habitats, such as sediments and aquatic vegetation, has been explored much less frequently. This study investigated the ecology of V. vulnificus in water by culture and quantitative PCR (qPCR) and in sediment, oysters, and aquatic vegetation by culture. V. vulnificus samples were taken from five sites around Tampa Bay, FL. Levels determined by qPCR and culture were significantly correlated (P = 0.0006; r = 0.352); however, V. vulnificus was detected significantly more frequently by qPCR (85% of all samples) compared to culture (43%). Culturable V. vulnificus bacteria were recovered most frequently from oyster samples (70%), followed by vegetation and sediment (∼50%) and water (43%). Water temperature, which ranged from 18.5 to 33.4°C, was positively correlated with V. vulnificus concentrations in all matrices but sediments. Salinity, which ranged from 1 to 35 ppt, was negatively correlated with V. vulnificus levels in water and sediments but not in other matrices. Significant interaction effects between matrix and temperature support the hypothesis that temperature affects V. vulnificus concentrations differently in different matrices and that sediment habitats may serve as seasonal reservoirs for V. vulnificus. V. vulnificus levels in vegetation have not been previously measured and reveal an additional habitat for this autochthonous estuarine bacterium.