, Volume 100, Issue 2, pp 291-307

Occurrence of Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio alginolyticus in the German Bight over a seasonal cycle

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Abstract

Bacteria of the genus Vibrio are an important component of marine ecosystems worldwide. The genus harbors several human pathogens, for instance the species Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a main cause for foodborne gastroenteritis in Asia and the USA. Pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus strains emerged also in Europe, but little is known about the abundance, pathogenicity and ecology of V. parahaemolyticus especially in Northern European waters. This study focuses on V. parahaemolyticus and its close relative Vibrio alginolyticus in the North Sea (Helgoland Roads, Germany). Free-living, plankton-attached and shellfish-associated Vibrio spp. were quantified between May 2008 and January 2010. CFUs up to 4.3 × 103 N l−1 and MPNs up to 240 N g−1 were determined. Phylogenetic classification based on rpoB gene sequencing revealed V. alginolyticus as the dominant Vibrio species at Helgoland Roads, followed by V. parahaemolyticus. We investigated the intraspecific diversity of V. parahaemolyticus and V. alginolyticus using ERIC-PCR. The fingerprinting disclosed three distinct groups at Helgoland Roads, representing V. parahaemolyticus, V. alginolyticus and one group in between. The species V. parahaemolyticus occurred mainly in summer months. None of the strains carried the virulence-associated genes tdh or trh. We further analyzed the influence of nutrients, secchi depth, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a and phytoplankton on the abundance of Vibrio spp. and the population structure of V. parahaemolyticus. Spearman Rank analysis revealed that particularly temperature correlated significantly with Vibrio spp. numbers. Based on multivariate statistical analyses we report that the V. parahaemolyticus population was structured by a complex combination of environmental parameters. To further investigate these influences is the key to understanding the dynamics of Vibrio spp. in temperate European waters, where this microbial group and especially the pathogenic species, are likely to gain in importance.