Occurrence and dynamics of potentially pathogenic vibrios in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia

Anna Padovan, Nachshon Siboni, Mirjam Kaestli, William L. King, Justin R. Seymour, Karen Gibb

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Bacteria from the Vibrio genus are a ubiquitous component of coastal and estuarine ecosystems with several pathogenic Vibrio species displaying preferences for warm tropical waters. We studied the spatial and temporal abundance of three key human potential pathogens V. parahaemolyticus, V. cholerae and V. vulnificus in northern tropical Australia, over the wet and dry seasons, to identify environmental parameters influencing their abundance. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis revealed that V. parahaemolyticus occurred more frequently and in higher abundance than V. cholerae and V. vulnificus across all locations examined. All three species were more abundant during the wet season, with V. parahaemolyticus abundance correlated to temperature and conductivity, whereas nutrient concentrations and turbidity best explained V. vulnificus abundance. In addition to these targeted qPCR analyses, we assessed the composition and dynamics of the entire Vibrio community using hsp60 amplicon sequencing. Using this approach, 42 Vibrio species were identified, including a number of other pathogenic species such as V. alginolyticus, V. mimicus and V. fluvialis. The Vibrio community was more diverse in the wet season, with temperature and dissolved oxygen as the key factors governing community composition. Seasonal differences were primarily driven by a greater abundance of V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus during the wet season, while spatial differences were driven by different abundances of V. harveyi, V. campbellii, V. cholerae and V. navarrensis. When we related the abundance of Vibrio to other bacterial taxa, defined using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, V. parahaemolyticus was negatively correlated to several taxa, including members of the Rickettsiales and Saccharimonadales, while V. vulnificus was negatively correlated to Rhobacteriaceae and Cyanobiaceae. In contrast, V. alginolyticus, V. harveyi and V. mediterranei were all positively correlated to Cyanobacteria. These observations highlight the dynamic nature of Vibrio communities and expands current understanding of the processes governing the occurrence of potentially pathogenic Vibrio spp. in tropical coastal ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105405
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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