Is it safe to go into the sea? Climate change and Vibrio spp. bacteria

Archer, Elizabeth Jasmine (2023) Is it safe to go into the sea? Climate change and Vibrio spp. bacteria. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Bacteria of the Vibrio genus are natural inhabitants of low salinity coastal ecosystems yet pose an increasing risk to human health. Pathogenic Vibrio species are highly temperature-sensitive and can cause infection via the consumption of undercooked seafood or direct exposure of wounds to seawater. Emergence of Vibrio spp. wound infections in high-latitude regions has been linked to rising sea surface temperatures caused by human-driven climate change. Simultaneously, warming air temperatures may encourage coastal recreational behaviour, exposing a greater number of individuals to these bacteria.

In this thesis, the northwards expansion of Vibrio vulnificus wound infections along the US Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastlines over a three-decade period is demonstrated using epidemiological data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statistical modelling of the V. vulnificus infection distribution as a function of air temperature is used to predict the changing geographic spread of infections to the end of the 21st Century under different scenarios of climate change. At a finer temporal and spatial scale, environmental drivers of weekly V. vulnificus wound infections in Gulf Coast US states are explored with a multi-model inference framework. The thesis also includes an ecological sampling study of Vibrio spp. bacteria within an anonymised coastal lagoon in the United Kingdom (UK). Vibrio spp. bacterial abundance is quantified and examined for associations with temperature, salinity and pH over a 10-week summer period whilst individual bacterial isolates are identified with cutting-edge matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS), polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequencing.

The thesis highlights the importance of temperature to the distribution of V. vulnificus wound infections and provides crucial long-term future risk projections for the US east coast. Further, the microbiological data presented contribute to initial information on potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. bacteria in UK waters.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2024 13:59
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2024 13:59

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