The New Tools Revolutionizing Vibrio Science

According to AOML scientists, the advancements made in genomics and whole genome sequencing has completely redefined the understanding of Vibrio. These advances have helped provide a clearer picture of how bacteria spread, emerge, and cause disease.

Vibrio is a genus of bacteria that has a strong affinity for the environmental conditions in freshwater and marine systems. These bacteria are known for causing foodborne illnesses due to the consumption of undercooked seafood. They are among the fastest replicating bacteria and are amongst the most numerous bacteria present in our oceans, coasts, and freshwater environments.

New easy to use online tools have been developed for scientists to deposit vibrio genomic data. These tools are continually updated and publicly available, which allows them to be used to assess relationships between strains, determine evolutionary history and understand how the bacteria developed over time.

Vibrio species are sensitive to salinity and temperature which allows earth observation systems to be used to track, understand, and predict outbreaks. AOML/CoastWatch is estimating the Global Suitability index for Vibrio, providing daily, weekly, cumulative, and short-term forecast fields using satellite data. These fields provide a synoptic and continuous record of the environmental conditions behind pathogenic Vibrio infections in coastal areas. The forecasts are routinely being used by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to monitor the Vibrio conditions in the Baltic Sea and are being used to assess the changes in suitability for pathogenic Vibrio outbreaks [1]. CoastWatch provides retrospective, current, and short-term forecasts of environmental suitability at a global scale, with special interest in coastal regions where human exposure is more likely to occur [2].

New developments in computational science, such as artificial intelligence, are making it possible to analyze massive amounts of complex information. This will help to provide new insights on the evolution and environmental drivers of disease as well as allowing for the development of a new generation of tools to allow a more comprehensive understanding of Vibrio.

[1] Watts, N., Amann, M., Arnell, N., Ayeb-Karlsson, S., Belesova, K., Berry, H., Bouley, T., Boykoff, M., Byass, P., Cai, W., Campbell-Lendrum, D., Chambers, J., Daly, M., Dasandi, N., Davies, M., Depoux, A., Dominguez-Salas, P., Drummond, P., Ebi, K.L., Ekins, P., Fernandez Montoya, L., Fischer, H., Georgeson, L., Grace, D., Graham, H., Hamilton, I., Hartinger, S., Hess, J., Kelman, I., Kiesewetter, G., Kjellstrom, T., Kniveton, D., Lemke, B., Liang, L., Lott, M., Lowe, R., Sewe, M.O., Martinez-Urtaza, J., Maslin, M., McAllister, L., Mikhaylov, S.J., Milner, J., Moradi-Lakeh, M., Morrissey, K., Murray, K., Nilsson, M., Neville, T., Oreszczyn, T., Owfi, F., Pearman, O., Pencheon, D., Pye, S., Rabbaniha, M., Robinson, E., Rocklöv, J., Saxer, O., Schütte, S., Semenza, J.C., Shumake-Guillemot, J., Steinbach, R., Tabatabaei, M., Tomei, J., Trinanes, J., Wheeler, N., Wilkinson, P., Gong, P., Montgomery, H. and Costello, A. 2018. The 2018 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: Shaping the health of nations for centuries to come. The Lancet 392(10163): 2479–2514.

[2] Semenza, J.C., J. Trinanes, W. Lohr, B. Sudre, M. Löfdahl, J. Martinez-Urtaza, G.L. Nichols, and J. Rocklöv. Environmental suitability of Vibrio infections in a warming climate: An early warning system. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(10):107004-1–107004-12, doi:10.1289/EHP2198