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Aeromonas hydrophila

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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Aeromonas hydrophila

What is A. hydrophilia ?

Aeromonas hydrophila is a species of bacterium that is present in all freshwater environments and in brackish water. Some strains of A. hydrophila are capable of causing illness in fish and amphibians as well as in humans. People may acquire infections through open wounds or by ingestion of a sufficient number of the organisms in food or water. Not as much is known about the other Aeromonas spp., but they too are aquatic microorganisms and have been implicated in human disease.

What illnesses are associated with A. hydrophilia ?

A. hydrophila may cause gastroenteritis in healthy individuals or septicemia in individuals with impaired immune systems or various malignancies. A. caviae and A. sobria also may cause enteritis in anyone, or septicemia in immunocompromised persons or those with malignancies.

At the present time, there is controversy as to whether A. hydrophila is a cause of human gastroenteritis. Its presence in the stools of individuals with diarrhea, in the absence of other known enteric pathogens, suggests that it has some role in disease. Likewise, A. caviae and A. sobria are considered by many as "putative pathogens," associated with diarrheal disease, but as of yet they are unproven causative agents.

Two distinct types of gastroenteritis have been associated with A. hydrophila : a cholera-like illness with a watery diarrhea and a dysenteric illness characterized by loose stools containing blood and mucus. The infectious dose of this organism is unknown, but SCUBA divers who have ingested small amounts of water have become ill, and A. hydrophila has isolated from their stools. A general infection in which the organisms spread throughout the body has been observed in individuals with underlying illness (septicemia).

What foods are associated with A. hydrophilia ?

A. hydrophila has frequently been found in fish and shellfish. It has also been found in market samples of red meats (beef, pork, lamb) and poultry. Since little is known about the virulence mechanisms of A. hydrophila , it is presumed that not all strains are pathogenic, given the ubiquity of the organism.

How often do outbreaks of A. hydrophilia disease occur?

The relative frequency of A. hydrophila disease in the U.S. is unknown. Most cases have been sporadic rather than associated with large outbreaks, but increased reports have been noted from several clinical centers.

Is A. hydrophilia serious?

On rare occasions the dysentery-like syndrome is severe and may last for several weeks. A. hydrophila may spread throughout the body and cause a general infection in persons with impaired immune systems. Those at risk are individuals suffering from leukemia, carcinoma, and cirrhosis and those treated with immunosuppressive drugs or who are undergoing cancer chemotherapy.

Who is susceptible to A. hydrophilia ?

All people are believed to be susceptible to gastroenteritis, although it is most frequently observed in very young children. People with impaired immune systems or underlying malignancy are susceptible to the more severe infections.


Food and Drug Administration

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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