Kling K, Trinh SA, Leyn SA, Rodionov DA, Rodionov ID, Herrera A, Cervantes K, Pankey G, Ashcraft D, Ozer EA, Godzik A, Satchell KJF
Vibrio vulnificus is an aquatic pathogen that is capable of causing severe disease in humans. Previous studies have suggested that pathogenic isolates were restricted to certain phylogenetic lineages and possibly toxinotype.The marine bacterium Vibrio vulnificus infects humans via food or water contamination, leading to serious manifestations, including gastroenteritis, wound infections, and septic shock. Previous studies suggest phylogenetic Lineage 1 isolates with the vcgC allele of the vcg gene cause human infections, whereas Lineage 2 isolates with the vcgE allele are less pathogenic. Mouse studies suggest that some variants of the primary toxin could drive more serious infections. A collection of 109 V. vulnificus United States human clinical isolates from 2001 to 2019 with paired clinical outcome data were assembled. The isolates underwent whole-genome sequencing, multilocus-sequence phylogenetic analysis, and toxinotype analysis of the multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxin. In contrast to prior reports, clinical isolates were equally distributed between lineages. We found no correlation between phylogenetic lineage or MARTX toxinotype and disease severity. Infections caused by isolates in Lineage 1 demonstrated a borderline statistically significant higher mortality. Lineage 1 isolates had a trend toward a higher proportion of M-type MARTX toxins compared with Lineage 2, although this was not statistically significant. IMPORTANCE Vibrio vulnificus is an aquatic pathogen that is capable of causing severe disease in humans. Previous studies have suggested that pathogenic isolates were restricted to certain phylogenetic lineages and possibly toxinotype. Our study demonstrated that phylogenetic lineage and multifunctional autoprocessing repeats-in-toxin (MARTX) toxinotype do not predict severity of infection. V. vulnificus strains capable of causing severe human disease are not concentrated in Lineage 1 but are genetically diverse. Thus, food surveillance based on lineage type or toxinotype may not be an appropriate intervention measure to control this rare but serious infection.