A woman in the United States lost limbs after eating undercooked fish; learn about this sickness that can be contracted through seafood.

Let's learn a little more about this bacterium:

A woman in the United States lost limbs after eating undercooked fish; learn about this sickness that can be contracted through seafood.

Vibrio vulnificus infections can be fatal in persons who consume contaminated seafood or have an open wound exposed to contaminated water.

A 6-year-old mother from the United States lost all four limbs after contracting a bacterial infection from eating raw fish. Laura Barajas, 40, began experiencing symptoms days after swallowing the fish, and the infection developed quickly, requiring her limbs to be amputated in an emergency surgery, according to The Strait Times. She, on the other hand, could be protected from a potentially fatal infection. A friend of Barajas informed San Francisco Bay Area local news station Kron4 that she had sepsis and her kidneys were failing.

Vibrio vulnificus, a bacterium that may cause life-threatening illnesses in patients after eating contaminated seafood or having an open wound exposed to infected water, has been linked to the disorder.

Let’s learn a little more about this bacterium:

What exactly is vibrio vulnificus?

“Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that is related to the bacteria that causes cholera (Vibrio cholerae).” It grows best in warm, brackish water. Although it is uncommon, it can cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems who consume contaminated seafood or have an open wound exposed to infected water, according to Dr. Tanu Singhal, Consultant, Paediatrics and Infectious Disease at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai.

“Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that thrives in warm seawater.” When you eat raw or undercooked seafood (shrimp, crayfish, crab, lobster, clams, scallops, oysters, and mussels), this bacterium can enter your body. It can infect you even if you have open wounds that are exposed to seawater where this bug dwells. It causes vibriosis, a severe form of the sickness that can swiftly lead to sepsis, shock, and big, spreading blisters that damage tissues. “It only takes a few hours for it to transmit from your intestines to your blood and other vital organs,” explains Dr. Bir Singh Sehrawat, Director and HOD-Gastroenterology, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad.


Possibility of amputation

“One of the most concerning complications of a Vibrio vulnificus infection is the risk of limb loss.” When the bacterium enters the body through a wound, it can cause necrotizing fasciitis, a quickly spreading illness that kills skin, fat, and muscle tissue.The possibility of such a terrible outcome emphasizes the need of early detection and treatment. If you suspect a vibrio vulnificus infection, seek medical assistance right once, especially if your wound has been exposed to warm seawater or brackish water. “Early intervention can reduce the risk of complications and improve the chances of a complete recovery,” says Dr Singhal.

Vibrio vulnificus infection symptoms

According to Dr. Singhal, the symptoms of a Vibrio vulnificus infection might vary depending on the method of infection:

Symptoms of seafood poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. These can appear within 24 hours of ingestion. Some individuals may develop more serious symptoms, such as a potentially fatal bloodstream infection with fever, chills, low blood pressure (septic shock), and blistering skin sores.

When the bacterium enters the body through an open wound, it can cause a skin infection, resulting in symptoms such as swelling, redness, discomfort, and ulcers at the wound site. In certain situations, the infection is severe enough to cause necrotizing fasciitis, which is a fast spreading infection that kills tissues.

“People infected with Vibrio vulnificus may experience symptoms such as watery diarrhea, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, dizziness, fainting or weakness (signs of low blood pressure), Confusion or altered mental state, and rapid heart rate.” Redness, discomfort, swelling, warmth, discoloration, and discharge are all symptoms of an infected wound. People with liver illnesses (cirrhosis), hemochromatosis, chronic kidney (renal) failure, diabetes, and compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable. This infection can cause life-threatening illnesses such as thrombocytopenia, internal bleeding (hemorrhage), sepsis, septic shock, necrotizing fasciitis (a deadly skin infection that may require surgery), and organ damage if treated late or not at all, according to Dr. Sehrawat.


Vibrio vulnificus is a dangerous bacterium that requires rapid medical intervention.

“Antibiotics such as doxycycline/3rd generation cephalosporins are used in treatment.” Proper wound care is critical for patients who catch the infection through an open wound. This can include simple wound cleaning and dressing to more intrusive operations to remove dead or contaminated tissue. Amputation may be required in severe situations to stop the spread of the infection. “Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, blood pressure medications, and other supportive therapies, is critical,” adds Dr Singhal.

“The patient is advised to undergo tests such as stool, blood cultures, stool (poop), sputum (mucus that you cough up from your lungs), and tissue or fluid from a wound to detect this infection.” If a Vibrio vulnificus infection is detected early, antibiotics are prescribed to the patient. If the condition worsens, other treatment options are considered, such as surgical debridement (the removal of dead tissue from wounds), draining fluid from blisters, amputation of affected limbs, medication to treat low blood pressure, such as norepinephrine (noradrenaline), intravenous fluids, and oxygen therapy to save the patient’s life,” Dr. Sehrawat says.

Suggestions for Prevention

Dr. Sehrawat recommends the following precautions to reduce the chance of contracting this deadly infection:

Eat raw or undercooked seafood, especially oysters, at all costs. Cook them thoroughly before eating.
After cooking or handling raw shellfish, always wash your hands with soap and water. You can also provide an extra layer of protection by wearing gloves.
To avoid vibrio infection, avoid swimming in seawater and brackish water if you have an open wound or break in your skin (such as after a recent operation, piercing, or tattoo).
Remember to properly clean any wounds that have come into touch with seawater, raw shellfish, or their juices.


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