Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Will Bacterial Plague Follow Crude Oil Spill Along Gulf Coast?

Will Bacterial Plague Follow Crude Oil Spill Along Gulf Coast?

By PAUL VOOSEN of Greenwire

Published: June 17, 2010

Some bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico love eating oil as much as they like infecting humans.

A close relative of the bacteria infamous for seafood contaminations that often lead to fatal disease, the microbe Vibrio parahaemolyticus, is common in warm coastal waters like the Gulf. The long comma-shaped bacteria, slurped down with raw oysters, brings twisting cramps and nausea to 4,500 American shellfish aficionados each year.

But unlike some of its finicky peers, V. parahaemolyticus has a deep thirst for crude oil. "You can feed it exclusively oil," and it will thrive, said Jay Grimes, marine microbiologist at the University of Southern Mississippi.

As many have noticed, oil is not in short supply on the Gulf Coast.

Scientists have long known that the ultimate end of the crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged BP PLC well will rest in the hands of marine bacteria, single-cell organisms that have been purging the seas of oil from natural seeps for millenia, having only recently added human folly to their cleanup resume. Without these bacteria, whose numbers surge in response to hydrocarbons, enough oil would leak each year to coat the world's oceans in a fine film, molecules deep.

Beneath this awareness, however, sit vast reserves of uncertainty. Microbiologists are unsure which bacteria, feeding off the oil, are already growing exponentially in the Gulf. They are curious how long the bacterial growth will last once the oil's hard remnants drift down into ocean sediment. And no one seems certain how the surge in microbial life will alter the intricate, disentangling web of the Gulf's already weakened ecology.

One of the more pressing questions involves Vibrios, which, until the oil spill, were one of the primary threats to the region's vital shellfish business. While parahaemolyticus rarely causes serious disease, another Vibrio species, vulnificus, kills dozens of Americans each year, largely through seafood contamination. The disease, only recently discovered, has caused fierce debate between health officials and local Gulf politicians over raw oysters, the primary carriers of the disease.

Since Vibrio populations swell in the summer -- they love the heat -- this year there is a likely possibility, scientists say, that Vibrio growth could be further spurred, directly or indirectly, in response to the oil and the organic flotsam it has left behind.

"The question is: Will there be an inadvertent enhancement of the growth of these potential human pathogens?" said Rita Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation and an expert in marine microbial life. "It's a question, and the answer is uncertain."

So far, hard evidence is scant. Grimes recently examined an oiled water sample taken by the research ship Pelican. The oil, likely exposed to dispersant, was finely divided. Using gene-staining technology, Grimes discovered several microbes attached to the droplet. Now glowing blue, they had been gorging. At least one was a Vibrio.

"There's no question bacteria, in general, increase following spills, and this includes Vibrios," said Jim Oliver, a Vibrio specialist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Whether the pathogenic Vibrios "significantly increase is unsure, I would say, but they are coastal bacteria ... so [they] could well increase either as a direct result of oil degradation or as a side effect of the added nutrient levels."

The ingredients are there for heightened concern, Oliver added. The carcasses of bacteria feeding off the oil will increase overall nutrient levels as sweltering summer temperatures hit their peak. While there are natural controls, like bacterial viruses and protozoa, that can check Vibrio growth, those can be overwhelmed, studies have shown. And because of the cleanup, more people could be coming into direct contact with the bacteria.

"I think that combination could lead to very serious public health concerns," Oliver said.

FDA aware of threat

Already, the spill is stressing and killing marine life, covering oyster cages in oily films, Oliver's Gulf colleagues tell him. The most common vector for seafood contamination, the oysters that survive the crude could see their immune systems weakened, potentially leaving them easy prey for bacteria. And what if their offspring are weakened?

There are few answers, said Doug Bartlett, a microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Mostly questions. "If the oil is killing all these marine animals and if the marine animals are highly compromised, would they be more likely to succumb to infectious disease?" he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is aware of the Vibrio threat but believes the bacteria's numbers will decline in parallel with the oil, said Meghan Scott, an FDA spokeswoman. Currently, most oyster reefs within the spill's reach are closed as part of the federal response, which has shuttered about a third of federal waters in the Gulf.

"Closure of oyster harvesting areas is based upon the presence of oil, and reopening cannot occur until the presence of oil is gone and shellfish have been tested by sensory and chemical analysis," Scott said. "Concurrent with acceptable test results for oil in oysters, Vibrio levels will have returned to background."

When harvesting resumes, Vibrio controls will be enforced by state shellfish control authorities. Those requirements have been the source of controversy in recent years, as last year FDA sought to reduce Vibrio-related deaths by tightening controls on raw oyster processing. Gulf fishermen and politicians fended off those standards, at least temporarily, citing economic concerns.

Without a doubt, higher Vibrio numbers would pale in comparison to the oil, which should remain the primary concern of emergency responders, given its potential to accumulate in wildlife and disrupt fish larvae. The synthetic dispersants used to break down the crude, making it available for microbes, are a close second. But there should be awareness that even as the oil recedes -- which, at times, seems an ever remote possibility -- its impact on the Gulf will linger, invisibly.

"I honestly don't know what is going to happen with regard to the oil spill," Scripps' Bartlett said. "It's very likely in the heavily impacted areas to have a strong influence on the composition of microbial communities. But gosh, I just don't have a good sense of where that all is going to go."

'Insufficient investment' in research

Marine microbiology has long been a meagerly funded field. Even when oil spills have been on politicians' agendas, most money has gone toward technological fixes like double-hulled tankers. As a result, microbiologists have few specific answers to offer on how the Gulf's bacterial life will change. Some lessons have been learned from spills in Japan, Alaska and France, but over the past 20 years, when biological tools have rapidly advanced, money has slipped out of reach.

"We are now reaping the sad result of insufficient investment in the kind of research that should have been happening all along," said Colwell, who was tapped this week to lead an independent panel advising where BP's promised $500 million in research funds should be invested.

Given the uncertainty, microbiologists are scrambling to reach the Gulf and sample waters near the former site of the Deepwater Horizon. Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Santa Barbara, backed in part by emergency federal grants, have set out on research ships like Cape Hatteras, Brooks McCall and Ocean Veritas to sample the ocean's smallest residents.

Few initial results are available, and much microbial activity has been inferred from a drop in oxygen levels in waters surrounding the spill. This plunge, however, even in the undersea plumes of oil-water mixture, has not been deep enough to limit the oxygen needed by microbes, according to Ken Lee, director of Canada's Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research. Lee has had researchers monitoring the spill for weeks.

"We've been monitoring oxygen profiles in the water column continuously," Lee said. Early tests likely used inaccurate equipment, he added, as "it doesn't look like there's a significant or any significant change in oxygen profiles at this time."

The undersea plumes are less dense than previous analogies may have suggested, Lee added. "It's certainly not salad dressing under water at depth," he said. "We've collected many samples for [analysis] and it appears that the concentrations are quite low."

There is evidence that the dispersants, despite whatever toxicity they may cause in the deep sea, are breaking down the oil into finer droplets than even the most efficient microbes, Lee added. Since most bacteria cannot live in oil and can only "stick their noses into it," as Oliver put it, increasing the surface area is critical to degradation. It is a tough call to use them in such volumes -- more than 1.3 million gallons so far -- but it may have been the right one, USM's Grimes added.

"As a microbiologist, I think the dispersants were the right way to go," Grimes said.

Colwell is not so certain, though, citing evidence that the dispersants could block vital nutrients from reaching oil-degrading bacteria. Much of the first $25 million pledged to Gulf-area research institutes from BP will investigate the effect of dispersants.

In these investigations, one of the more impressive bacteria that scientists expect to find in large numbers near the spill are Alcanivorax borkumensis, a microbe described only a decade ago by German scientists, or similar species. Alcanivorax are selective microbes, so focused on hydrocarbons that they can create their own surfactants, the detergent-like chemicals used by dispersants, to break apart oil.

Typically, bacteria that consume oil grow from less than 1 percent of the marine population to 10 percent or more, as seen in the Exxon Valdez spill. It is expected that microbe species similar to Alcanivorax constitute a large part of this primary growth, said Kenneth Timmis, a microbiologist at Germany's Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research who helped discover A. borkumensis.

"The unfortunate thing is Alcanivorax can only handle a small part of the problem," Timmis said. The bacteria target saturated hydrocarbons, simple chemical chains that constitute the major volume of the Gulf oil but are also the most likely to evaporate. It is small, he said, "but it's an important part of it."

Indeed, the word "oil" can mask the sheer complexity of crude, Colwell said. Recent studies have found more than 17,000 different chemical components in crude, spawning a term that mirrors the complexity of biology: petroleomics. Some bacteria, like the Alcanivorax, will degrade the simple components, while others, like some Vibrios, hanker for aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene, which are more stable and toxic.

"It's what we call a consortium activity," Colwell said, chains of bacteria that tag-team to devour the oil. "It's a complex system and we, in the 21st century, need to be thinking of systems. ... We have to understand sequential events. It requires a new way of thinking."

Nature's limits

While bacteria -- be they Alcanivorax, Vibrio or some other flagella-tailed bug -- will degrade much of the oil in the Gulf, they will encounter limits in their efforts. Even with enough dissolved oxygen in the water, it is likely that the nutrients needed by the microbes will be in scarce supply, if they are not already, scientists said.

"My guess is that biodegradation is limited by nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and iron," said Jim Spain, a microbial engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology. "There might be a time when addition of such nutrients could be helpful, but the caveat is that stimulation of photosynthesis -- algal blooms -- should be avoided."

Fertilization of the ocean should be explored, Colwell agreed. But, she added it should only be considered in a serious, science-based approach that knows exactly what is being added into contaminated waters with volumes calculated based on oil and microbial concentrations.

Soon enough, however, the Gulf will receive a dose of nutrients that it can do little to control. Each summer, runoff from the fertilizer-saturated farms of the Midwest sluices down and out the Mississippi River, typically causing a massive bloom in algae growth and, in turn, a "dead zone" without oxygen. How this runoff will interact with Gulf microbes is anyone's guess.

It could stimulate the hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, Bartlett said. But if algae instead bloom, the local Vibrio population could also escape its normal limits. Bartlett saw such results during one bloom off the California coast, where the protozoa were no longer able to stop the growth of Vibrio, which can have an affinity for algae.

"The lesson from that is that under high nutrient conditions, it may be that the Vibrio numbers would go up," Bartlett said. "Though one might need to distinguish one algae from another. So we have more questions than answers."

In the end, there is just too much oil for bacteria to break down before large recalcitrant chunks of the crude -- resins and asphaltenes -- sink to the seafloor, coating marine life. The chemicals will then burrow into sediment and, while not very toxic, in such a oxygen-free environment, the oil will take many years to degrade, Helmholtz's Timmis said.

While efforts to limit the oil's spread are understandable, given the wildlife and ecosystem concerns, the high concentrations will make it much more difficult for bacteria to mitigate the oil, he said. The short-term fix complicates the long-term solution.

"It needs to be contained on one hand, and dispersed at the same moment," Timmis said.

For the oil that has not reached the shore, it will be "marine bacteria that will ultimately save the day," UNC's Oliver said. They will degrade the oil to water and carbon dioxide, he said, given time and the assistance of wind and waves.

But those days of clear seas remain on a distant horizon.

"This oil," Colwell said, "will be around for a long time."

Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.


see more on the Vibrio parahaemolyticus ;

What type of illness is caused by V. parahaemolyticus?

When ingested, V. parahaemolyticus causes watery diarrhea often with abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Usually these symptoms occur within 24 hours of ingestion. Illness is usually self-limited and lasts 3 days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in persons with weakened immune systems. V. parahaemolyticus can also cause an infection of the skin when an open wound is exposed to warm seawater.

How does infection with V. parahaemolyticus occur?

Most people become infected by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters. Less commonly, this organism can cause an infection in the skin when an open wound is exposed to warm seawater.

snip... see full text ;


The increasing trend of human incidences of gastroenteritis due to seafood contaminated with V. parahaemolyticus has gained significant national and worldwide attention. The Food Borne Diseases Active Surveillance Network reports that Vibrio infection rate has been the highest, 47%, from 1996 to 2004, compared to other bacterial infections, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and E. coli (5). The significance of V. parahaemolyticus infection in humans has continued to rise since 2000 in the U.S. In 2006, the Council of State and Terrestrial Epidemiologists suggested all Vibrio illnesses, including non-cholera Vibrio illness, should be classified as nationally notifiable diseases (5).

A model for risk characterization based on the historical/surveillance data was developed by CDC's program Cholera and Other Vibrio Illness Surveillance System (COVISS). In the study conducted from 1998 to 2002, 62% of V. parahaemolyticus illnesses was due to contaminated oyster consumption and wound associated (58).

The Pacific Coast States were the site of the highest number of reported V. parahaemolyticus by the state of residence from a report from the CDC (58); however, there was no direct relation to the oyster harvesting sites. As a result, residents of the Pacific Coast states, such as Washington and Oregon, consumed oysters harvested from various sites in nation as well as other states. This study also found that most oyster-linked V. parahaemolyticus illnesses were associated with harvesting areas in the following order: Gulf Coast oysters, Pacific Northwest oysters, Atlantic oysters, and other states (58). Elston from Aqua Technics in Sequim argues that the consequence of warming of the ocean water due to El NiƱo effect might be correlated with the sudden growth of bacteria near shore and possible increase of Vibrio contamination should be highly considered (18). Food safety concerns are raised since various microorganisms would be contained while the digestive organ of the shellfish filters the seawater, and entire raw or lightly cooked animals are often consumed by people (16).

The general symptoms due to consumed raw or inadequately cooked seafood infected with V. parahaemolyticus are watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills lasting one to three days with onset often within twenty four hours (5, 65). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, although there is no treatment necessary in most cases of V. parahaemolyticus infections, it is recommended to patients for drinking lots of liquids in order to restore the lost fluids from diarrhea symptoms. In harsh cases, antibiotics that are susceptible to the microorganisms are used, and they are tetracylcline or ciprofloxacin (6).

Raw or improperly cooked seafood products during warmer seasons lead to higher rates of the world outbreaks of V. parahaemolyticus. According to Kaysner, the bacterial contamination could be possibly eliminated by proper heating and cooking practice in dealing with seafood (33). Research conducted in 1970 by Vanderzant and colleagues focused on an isolation of V. parahaemolyticus from the shrimps harvested from the Gulf Coast and found that after heat treatment of a shrimp homogenate containing V. parahaemolyticus for a minute at 100 oC , no survival of bacteria was found after an hour (60). In live crabs, the bacteria were destroyed after exposure to steam for 15 minutes between 72 oC to 75 oC (26).

see full text ;


Epidemiology and Infection Cambridge University Press Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010 doi:10.1017/S0950268810001354


Original Papers

Vibrio illness in Florida, 1998–2007


K. E. WEISa1a2 c1, R. M. HAMMONDa2, R. HUTCHINSONa2 and C. G. M. BLACKMOREa2

a1 Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists Applied Epidemiology Fellowship, Atlanta, GA, USA a2 Bureau of Environmental Public Health Medicine, Division of Environmental Health, Florida Department of Health, Tallahassee, FL, USA

SUMMARY This study characterized the current epidemiology of vibrio infections in Florida and examined cases reported from 1998 to 2007. Logistic regression was used to determine risk of death. There were 834 vibrio infections in 825 individuals (average annual incidence rate 4·8/1 000 000). Common Vibrio species reported were Vibrio vulnificus (33%), V. parahaemolyticus (29%), and V. alginolyticus (16%). Most exposures were attributed to wounds (42%), and the most common clinical syndromes were wound infections (45%) and gastroenteritis (42%). Almost half of individuals reported an underlying health condition. Risk of death was associated with any underlying condition and increased with the number of conditions (P<0·0001).


Deadly flesh-eating bacteria along coast

August 05, 2009 5:50 PM Jessica Holloway BEAUMONT- The state health department is warning residents about a flesh-eating bacteria in coastal regions that have killed two people so far this year.

The bacteria is called Vibrio, and beach-goers and fishermen should be aware, says the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Five cases and two deaths have occurred in 2009. Last year, 17 cases and seven deaths were reported.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a bacterium commonly found in coastal waters and can make people ill by causing a serious skin infection if it enters an opening in the skin.

This usually happens when a person with a cut or abrasion swims or fishes in seawater containing a high number of the bacteria, according to the health department’s Web site.

Therefore, people with cuts or abrasions should avoid the water until their skin is healed.

Nelda Muirhead, of Beaumont, said she lost her 42-year-old son to Vibrio in 2004 after he visited Crystal Beach.

She said her son's feet began hurting immediately after his visit to the beach, that the bacteria spread across his body, and he died two weeks later, leaving behind two children.

Muirhead said she wants to help the health department spread the warning about Vibrio.

"Even when the bacteria sign is up at the beach, there are people still in the water," she said.

To learn more about the flesh-eating bacteria, click here http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/preparedness/factsheet_vibrio.pdf.


Flesh-eating bacteria a concern in local waters

Posted July 8, 2009 at 11:13 p.m.

CORPUS CHRISTI — I was wading that sandy shelf along the east side of the Lydia Ann Channel this past week and nearly stepped on a stingray.

I’d been shuffling my feet along the hard bottom when the toe of my boot caught the outer rim of a small depression, causing me to stumble slightly. The bottom of my boot skipped across the hole and landed on the other side, barely tickling the wingtip of a stingray about the size of a 45 rpm record.

The little tan ray scooted away, leaving behind a puff of sand and my rapid heartbeat. I’m not sure the stinger of this ray could have reached beyond the Kevlar shield that protects my ankle and foot. I wear Foreverlast low-style reef boots, which provide just enough confidence and protection for a diligent feet shuffler such as me. Those shin protectors are too cumbersome for my comfort.

A larger stingray could easily plant its barb above my armor. This recently happened to a friend in Port Mansfield. Some of you probably have seen the photos of Mike McBride’s festering foot. These gruesome images circulated on the Internet about six weeks ago.

But Mike’s injuries went much deeper than the stingray’s barb. It’s the ensuing infection that got him into life-threatening trouble.

As of this week Mike still is suffering through a painful recovery from his wounds.

Doctors suspect it was the infamous flesh-eating Vibrio vulnificus bacteria that toppled this otherwise healthy angler. The stingray simply provided a fertile opening for the aggressive bacteria.

Within 26 hours Mike’s symptoms went from that of a simple puncture wound to a swelling, reddening foot that was hot to the touch. As the swelling worsened, the skin around the wound turned from red to purple to black. And then blisters began to pock the surface.

McBride went to the emergency room and didn’t leave the hospital for days.

“If I had gone into the emergency room at 5 instead of 11, there’s no doubt I wouldn’t be in this condition right now,” said McBride, who is hoping to be back on the water by October.

When McBride does return to fishing you can bet he’ll be wearing breathable waders.

Vibrio is the same bacteria that sometimes makes people sick from eating raw oysters. When ingested, our stomachs can handle the intrusion. The bacteria cannot penetrate healthy skin. But if this insidious microorganism enters the bloodstream through a break in the skin, the infection spreads rapidly and can result in amputation or death. Immediate treatment is the most effective cure.

If you cut yourself while fishing, saturate the wound with a bleach solution, hydrogen peroxide, hand sanitizer or other across the counter product such as Invisible Armor, Hibiclens or Hibistat.

The only vaccination against Vibrio or Staph is enlightenment. Don’t take lightly these bay-borne bacteria.

I’ve already described the symptoms. If you experience any of them, find an emergency room quickly. And for gosh sakes if you step on a stingray or gash your leg on a rock or oyster shell don’t invite bacteria in by keeping the wound submerged in the bay or surf.

Joanna Mott, a microbiologist, professor and chair of the Department of Life Sciences at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said studies in 1996 and as recently as 2007 at the university revealed widespread occurrences of the bacteria in Oso Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, Redfish Bay, Copano Bay, Nueces Bay, near Cole Park and near Bird Island in Upper Laguna Madre.

Most cases of Vibrio, and nearly all fatalities, involve high-risk patients who are elderly or with liver problems, deficient immune systems, diabetes, gastric disorders, cancer or steroid dependency. McBride suffered from none of these. Consuming alcohol also puts us at greater risk. But neglect and ignorance rank as the greatest risk factors.

David Sikes’ Outdoors column runs Thursday and Sunday. Contact David at 886-3616 or sikesd@caller.com.

© 2009 Corpus Christi Caller Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A Baytown man has died from illness caused by exposure to a rare pathogen often referred to as flesh-eating bacteria. Thomas Jesse Shurley, 52, died Tuesday night of multiple organ failure following a three-week battle against the infection. He had suffered a scrape on his knee while fishing in Galveston Bay on July 26, family members said. The bacteria, most often encountered in seawater, rapidly spread throughout his body, and even the amputation of his leg could not stop it.

“It's really a shock to the entire family,” said his daughter, Shaunte Angelo. “He was young and full of life. We never saw this coming.”

The incident occurred when Shurley was fishing alone close to shore in a small jon boat. The boat tipped over and he scraped his left knee while righting it. Shurley felt sick the next day but thought little of it. By Tuesday evening, his knee was so swollen and he felt so bad that friends took him to Baytown Methodist Hospital, fearing he had broken it.

“The doctors ran some tests and figured out what it was,” Angelo said. “They asked him if he wanted to lose his leg or his life. Of course, he chose his leg.”

The next day Shurley was taken by Life Flight to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. He was placed on a ventilator and never regained full consciousness, his daughter said. Infected tissue was surgically removed, and later most of his leg. But there was little hope once the infection spread through his blood and most of his organs, she said.

He was taken off life support at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and died about five hours later.







Flesh-eating bacteria migrating north Channel 11 KHOU-TV, July 30, 2007

CRYSTAL BEACH – Fishermen frequent Crystal Beach, getting waist deep in the Gulf to cast lines for speckled trout. But Steve Gilpatrick, 58, caught something else while fishing ankle deep in the surf he never expected. The Nacogdoches man contracted vibrio vulnificus, better known as flesh eating bacteria, on July 8 through a cut on his leg. What happened next is frightening. In less than a day, the fast moving bacteria moved up his leg discoloring it and painfully destroying his skin. Blisters soon developed a half-inch thick. The 58-year-old diabetic almost lost his leg -- and nearly his life. "They were able to keep him away from total organ failure,” Linda continued. “We were very close.” Flesh-eating bacteria lives in the warm Gulf waters. People rarely are infected. The Texas Department of Health said it only records a couple dozen cases a year. Twelve so far in 2007, said TDH spokesman Doug McBride. In fact, experts believe the real number of flesh-eating bacteria cases is much higher. What's worrisome though is this warm water bacteria is now being discovered in cold water, in places like Alaska, Sweden and along the eastern seaboard. "There's no question the water temperatures are increasing,” explained Dr. James Oliver, microbiologist, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Gilpatrick is in stable condition in a second-floor care unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Doctors removed all the skin from his right leg and in five surgeries have started grafting new pieces on it.


Beachgoers should beware of bacteria

Brazoport Fact, July 19, 2007

Though summer months bring out more beachgoers and fishermen wading in area waters, it also fuels breeding grounds for a bacteria known as the "flesh-eating" bacteria. A Nacogdoches man contracted the rare Vibrio vulnificus bacterium July 8 while he was visiting Crystal Beach in Galveston County, the Associated Press reported. Steve Gilpatrick, 58, was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a tissue-destroying disease caused by the bacteria. Gilpatrick’s physician, Dr. David Herndon, the chief of burn services and professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said Tuesday the situation is life-threatening because the infection spread to Gilpatrick’s blood. Gilpatrick is suffering from multiple organ failure, and doctors are trying to save his leg.

Outlook better for man infected in Gulf

Galveston County Daily News, July 19, 2007

GALVESTON — Steve Gilpatrick finally got some good news Wednesday. Galveston doctors told the Nacogdoches man he would survive deadly bacteria that infected him in the Gulf and that he likely would keep the leg that the bug contaminated. "He’s still very sick," his wife, Linda Gilpatrick, said Wednesday in an interview from the University of Texas Medical Branch’s John Sealy Hospital. It was the first glimmer of hope after a terrifying week for the Gilpatricks. On July 8, Steve Gilpatrick briefly went fishing in ankle-deep water at Crystal Beach, his wife said. Gilpatrick, 58, is diabetic. He had a sore on his leg that had almost healed. He felt fine until the night of July 10, when he awoke with chills and a 103-degree fever. One of his legs was especially hot and it had turned purplish-red, said Linda Gilpatrick. Medical branch doctors quickly determined that he had been infected with vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium found in all seawater. The same bug can make people sick when they eat raw oysters, especially in summertime. Healthy people almost always are able to fight off a skin infection by vibrio vulnificus, but diabetics are doubly vulnerable, said Johnny Peterson, a medical branch microbiologist who studies the disease.

"Flesh-eating" bacteria infections rare

Galveston County Daily News, July 19, 2007

GALVESTON — One strain of a "flesh-eating"e; bacterium is grabbing headlines since it infected a Nacogdoches man last week during a visit to Crystal Beach. But experts say there are a several types of bacteria that destroy human flesh. What’s more, they say, infections like the most recent one are rare. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take some commonsense precautions when they’re around seawater. Steve Gilpatrick, 58, is recovering at the University of Texas Medical Branch after suffering an infection of vibrio vulnificus that could well have been fatal. He became infected after walking in ankle-deep water on a Bolivar Peninsula beach. The vibrio vulnificus bacterium, which is related to the one that causes cholera, exists in all seawater. Populations of it are especially great along the Gulf in summer, when the water is warm. Even so, only about 300 cases of infection were documented in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.


Flesh-eating bacteria put man's life at risk

Houston Chronicle, July 18, 2007

GALVESTON — A Nacogdoches man who was infected by flesh-eating bacteria while swimming off Galveston County's Crystal Beach still faces the threat of losing a leg — and possibly his life — despite three surgeries. Steve Gilpatrick is fighting necrotizing fasciitis, a tissue-destroying disease caused by a bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus. The retired oil company marketing consultant also is suffering from multiple organ failure because the disease has caused a blood infection, his physician said Tuesday. Gilpatrick, 58, was listed in critical but stable condition. The bacterium thrives in warm salt water and is most prevalent during summer months. Swimmers with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients or people with liver disease, are most susceptible to the disease. To be contracted through contaminated water, the bacteria need a point of entry, such as an open wound. Gilpatrick, who is diabetic, had an ulcer on his lower leg that he believed was nearly healed when he went swimming during a fishing trip on July 8, his wife said. His leg became infected three days later and he began running a high fever, spurring them to head for the emergency room. There also is a risk of death in patients whose Vibrio vulnificus infection spreads to the blood, as it has in Gilpatrick's case, said his physician, Dr. David Herndon, who is chief of burn services and professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Herndon said he sees about one case of necrotizing fasciitis, which can be caused by several bacteria, each month. But Vibrio vulnificus infections are not as common, he said, noting that John Sealy Hospital receives only two or three cases in a year. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 54 cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection in 2006. At least 16 were caused by water contact.


Flesh-Eating Bacteria Kills Louisiana Man Man Fell Overboard, Cut Hand

Posted: 9:39 am PDT July 23, 2007

COCODRIE, La. -- After flesh-eating bacteria claimed the life of his father, Michael Theriot is warning people against swimming in Louisiana bayous.

Related Link: More On Vibrio vulnificus

Last month, Michael Theriot Sr. was on the Robinson Canal in Cocodrie, La., when he fell overboard and cut his hand on a piece of tin.

From then on, he battled an infection of Vibrio vulnificus, a disease found during the summer months in warm salt water.

"Twenty-six days he stayed in the hospital on life support, from the time of the accident until he passed away on June 12," Theriot said.

Symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea and intense stomach pain. Vibrio vulnificus can be treated with antibiotics, but it has to be treated early.

Or, as Theriot warned, don't go into the water at all.

"As we have seen in the last month, it can be very devastating," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said bloodstream infections are fatal in about 50 percent of cases.


Health, Science & Technology See other Health, Science & Technology Articles

Title: Flesh-Eating Bacteria Claims Life Of Texas Dentist

Source: healthtalk URL Source:


Published: Aug 14, 2004 Author: healthtalk Post Date: 2004-08-14 23:57:03 by TLBSHOW

A dentist from Houston, Texas, has died after becoming infected with a flesh-eating bacteria. Dr. Kenneth Dean Creamer, 52, became infected after suffering a cut to his leg while he was fishing near Port O'Connor, on the Gulf coast, according to officials.

Creamer was being treated since July 17, two days after he became infected with the saltwater bacteria vibrio vulnificus.

According to the Texas Department of Health, Creamer is the seventh vibrio vulnificus related death in Texas this year. The bacteria is common in warm Gulf waters.

If caught early enough, the infection can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called "halophilic" because they require salt.

Vibrio vulnificus can cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulceration. Persons who are immunocompromised are at higher risk for invasion of the organism into the bloodstream and potentially fatal complications.


Oliver Johnson dies from flesh eating bacteria Environment, posted by the Dude, a resident of Half Moon Bay, on May 18, 2008 at 4:20 pm

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The truth be known...not covered in lies!!!!! can you deny his death! Readers beware of Bloggers covering the truth of sewage entering our ocean. Fight for your Ocean!!!!!


April 6 2006

UH scientists note that the raw sewage that flowed out of the canal, and into the boat harbor and the ocean, would have provided nutrients for the deadly bacteria to suddenly flourish.


Two bacteria — Vibrio vulnificus and aeromonas identified in Johnson's wounds, according to the Health Department — are potentially deadly, and both can cause a flesh-eating effect.

"That would be an organism that can kill very quickly," said Roger Fujioka, a UH microbiologist familiar with the vibrio bacteria that grow in seawater. "It gets into the bloodstream."

It's the same bacteria that killed a man on the Big Island in 2001, after he swam in brackish hot springs.

Fujioka said the bacteria are in the water all the time, but in very low concentrations.

There aren't enough bacteria to create infections, he said, "until something unusual happens like the sewage spill."

Dr. Alan Tice, an infectious disease specialist with UH and Queen's, said several conditions combined in Johnson's case to increase the danger: the bacteria bloom because of the sewage spill; wounds Johnson suffered beforehand, giving bacteria easy access; and the fact he had been drinking, which could have reduced his liver's ability to filter them out.



June 18, 2010

Wild Sharks, Redfish Harbor Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria ScienceDaily (June 18, 2010) — Researchers have found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in seven species of sharks and redfish captured in waters off Belize, Florida, Louisiana and Massachusetts. Most of these wild, free-swimming fish harbored several drug-resistant bacterial strains.

The study, published in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in every fish species sampled.

The researchers also found multidrug-resistant bacteria in fish at nearly all of the study sites, said Mark Mitchell, a professor of veterinary clinical medicine at the University of Illinois and a senior author of the paper.

"Ultimately the idea of this study was to see if there were organisms out there that had exposures or resistance patterns to antibiotics that we might not expect," Mitchell said. "We found that there was resistance to antibiotics that these fish shouldn't be exposed to."

Among the animals sampled, nurse sharks in Belize and in the Florida Keys had the highest occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These sharks feed on crustaceans, small fish and other animals living in shallow waters close to shore.

Random mutations may account for drug-resistant bacteria in marine environments, Mitchell said, but there is a lot of evidence for a human origin.

"The shark population in Belize, for example, is a big tourist area, so there are people in the water right there," he said. "The sampling site is not far from a sewage plant, and so all those exposures we think are playing a role."

Sewage also is a problem in the Atlantic coastal waters of the United States, he said. Previous studies have shown that sewage outflows can leak antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the environment.

In the new study, the researchers looked for and found bacterial resistance to 13 antibacterial drugs in the fish. Patterns of resistance varied among the sites.

Bacteria from sharks off Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and in offshore Louisiana were resistant to the fewest number of antibiotics, while sharks in the Florida Keys and Belize harbored bacteria that were resistant to amikacin, ceftazidime, chloramphenicol, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, penicillin, piperacillin, sulfamethoxazole and ticarcillin.

Redfish in the Louisiana offshore site hosted more varieties of drug-resistance than sharks in the same waters. This may reflect differences in their age (the redfish were more mature than the sharks), feeding or migratory habits, Mitchell said.

While the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in sharks and other fish does not necessarily harm them, Mitchell said, the findings point to a growing problem for human health.

"There are estimates of over 100,000 deaths from infections in hospitals per year, many of them from antibiotic-resistant organisms," Mitchell said. "And we're creating even more of these organisms out in the environment. … Unfortunately, as these things collect, there's probably a threshold at some point where there's going to be a spillover and it will start to affect us as a species."

People do eat sharks and redfish, Mitchell said, and now these fish represent a potential new route of exposure to drug-resistant bacteria. Sharks and redfish also are predators, and so may function as sentinels for human health.

"Some people might say, well, a bull shark in offshore Louisiana doesn't really have an influence on my health," Mitchell said. "But these fish eat what we eat. We're sharing the same food sources. There should be a concern for us as well."

This study was the thesis for first author Jason Blackburn, a former master's student at Louisiana State University now on the faculty at the University of Florida. The team included researchers from LSU, the University of Florida, the U. of I. and the University of Southern California.


GALVESTON BAY, swimming with the dolphins, PCBs, and FECAL MATTER

Greetings again kind friends and neighbors,

well, see there, i was not dreaming, i know what shit smells like when i smell it. i was not only fishing with the PCBs, i was also fishing in feces yesterday, right in our backyard, on Galveston Bay. wonder what the PCBs and the fact Galveston Bay is now being used as a toilet, just to flush feces down, wonder what that will do to bay front property values ??? the realtors and such keep telling me they call this progress. hmmm, some progress. yep, glad i threw that limit of specs away yesterday. that was the first time i had ever released a limit of specs, one by one off our pier. i don't like catch and release, especially when live shrimp is 10 dollars a pint. catch and put in freezer is my logo, and if you cannot do that, what's the use of going, especially when you smell like feces when you get out of the bay. oh well, business is booming, Bayport et al is running wide open, the shit channel is bigger and better, and Galveston Bay is now nothing more than a toilet full of feces, PCBs, and many other toxins, not to forget the deadly flesh eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, come on down and get your bay front, water front, property now. ...TSS

p.s. as of this morning, no identifiable lesions, and or open wounds yet. ...TSS

July 18, 2008, 11:15PM

Buffalo Bayou tributary flushed Investigators trying to identify source of sewage

By ALLAN TURNER Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Hazardous materials workers began the laborious process of flushing a stagnant segment of Buffalo Bayou's Newman Branch on Friday after it was contaminated by raw sewage, possibly flowing from a broken pipe.

Most heavily contaminated was a section of the waterway between Interstate 10 and Memorial Drive.

Investigators from the city health department and other agencies arrived at the scene early Friday afternoon after nearby residents complained of the stench. The process of flushing the bayou with water from fire hydrants began at midafternoon.

Today, hazardous material workers plan to siphon scum from atop the water at a collection point set up with booms near the Memorial bridge.

Stephen Dicker, an investigator with Houston Police Department's environmental crimes unit, said workers trying to identify the source of the leak were hampered by the uncertainty of the location of underground sewer pipes




Terry S. Singeltary Sr.
P.O. Box 42
Bacliff, Texas USA 77518

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