Cooper Researchers: Climate change may have brought flesh-eating infection to previously unaffected waters

Katherine Doktor, MD, MS

Katherine Doktor, MD, MS

In a case report published June 17, 2019, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at Cooper University Health Care caution that rising water temperatures in the Delaware Bay may be to blame for an increased number of local cases of Vibrio vulnificus (V. vulnificus), a flesh-eating infection that can occur after handling or consumption of seafood.

In the article, the team of infectious disease specialists at Cooper, including Katherine Doktor, MD, and Henry Fraimow, MD, and clinical pharmacists Madeline King, PharmD, and Lucia Rose, PharmD, describe five cases of V. vulnificus necrotizing fasciitis that occurred during the summer months of 2017 and 2018 after water exposure and/or consumption of crabs from the Delaware Bay. All of the patients received prompt medical attention and surgical management, and four survived.

Henry S Fraimow, MD

Henry S Fraimow, MD

“In the eight years before 2017, only one case of V. vulnificus was seen at our hospital,” said Dr. Katherine Doktor. “As a result of our experience, we believe clinicians should be aware of the possibility that V. vulnificus infections are occurring more frequently outside traditional geographic areas.”

V. vulnificus is endemic to the southeastern U.S. coast. Cases have also been reported from the Chesapeake Bay but are rarely reported from the Delaware Bay, which is farther north and slightly cooler. Wound infections occur through breaks in the skin, and intestinal infections occur after consumption of seafood. Either route can lead to bloodstream infections, and the mortality rate is high.

To read the full article, click here.


Wendy A. Marano
Public Relations Manager

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