Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Charles R. Lovell


Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a ubiquitous coastal organism that causes gastroenteritis (vibriosis) after ingestion of mishandled or undercooked seafood. Cases of vibriosis have increased rapidly in the past decade. V. parahaemolyticus densities have historically been associated with an increase in sea surface water temperatures, but recent shellfish bed closures in fall and winter months in cooler regions (the Baltic Sea, the Pacific NW, and New England) suggest that there may be additional environmental parameters that affect densities of V. parahaemolyticus. The vertical distribution of V. parahaemolyticus was assessed in the pristine North Inlet Estuary (SC, USA). The goal of this study was to determine the specific microenvironments that support high densities of V. parahaemolyticus. It was determined that surficial sediments act as significant reservoirs for V. parahaemolyticus, with densities as high as 104 CFU mL-1 in the top three mm of sediment. The highest densities of V. parahaemolyticus were found in the fall sampling dates, corresponding to increased shellfish bed closures reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Outbreaks of vibriosis are increasing in size and frequency and this study provides important insight into the preferred environments this organism inhabits and highlights the importance of a broad sampling strategy for assessment of risk.


© 2019, India Briana Gartmon

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