It’s official. This summer was one of the hottest on record, and July was the warmest month ever recorded on the planet. The sweltering summer was a boon for bacteria from the Vibrio genus. Several reports of flesh-eating bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, are dotting America’s coastline with casualties. Sea temperatures are high, rising, and stretching these bugs to new beaches — a new normal in this climate crisis. But if more abundant flesh-eating bacteria weren’t daunting enough, entirely different species of Vibrio infections are also predicted to rise.
So, meet the all-star cast of marine bacteria that can ruin your warm-weather activities and tropical vacations:
Vibrio vulnificus: This “flesh-eating” bad boy causes lethal infections in wounds, as well as shellfish poisoning. Does necrotizing fasciitis sound appetizing?
Vibrio cholerae: Cholera. Yes, that cholera. Millions of people infected annually, lethal in hours if untreated.
Vibrio alginolyticus: This angsty germ seems to thrive on being a nuisance. It produces the famous neurotoxin in pufferfish and also causes swimmer’s ear.
Because each of these Vibrio species (and others) thrive in warm waters, they are all expected to get a boost from climate change. With all the bacterial diversity in the world, it’s hard to believe that this little-discussed group could be such a problem. But warming ocean temperatures may well put Vibrio on course to being a household name.
Happy swimming and seafood-eating!