NMFS NUMBER: 92-WO-038
of the Viable Form of Vibrio vulnificus in Cold
Tamplin, Mark L.
National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Region, P.O.
Box 12607, Charleston, SC 29412. PHONE: (803) 762-8526
economic decline in molluscan shellfish industries can
be attributed, in part, to the impact of Vibrio vulnificus
on public awareness of seafood safety. Although
the number of V. vulnificus cases is low compared
to the estimated 9,000,000 annual foodborne illness, and
associated > 9,000 deaths, the inability to predict
risk based on fecal coliform standards has compelled public
health agencies to consider new control practices.
It is well established that environmental levels of V.
vulnificus parallel the incidence of clinical illness,
supporting the hypothesis that V. vulnificus
disease is related to increased bacterial concentration.
In cold winter months, V. vulnificus cannot be
readily detected in shellfish, and no human disease occurs.
This has raised the question, "Where does V.
vulnificus reside during cold months, and from what
reservoir(s) does it reappear?" Some scientists propose
that low temperature causes V. vulnificus to
exist in a viable, but nonculturable (VBNC) form that
becomes culturable when water temperature increases.