Vibrio vulnificus, an emergent human pathogen, causes septicemia with a mortality rate over 50%. Additionally, symptom onset occurs rapidly, with the incubation time for ingestion cases being around 26 hours. This, combined with the severity of symptoms has led to V. vulnificus being considered the deadliest seafood-associated pathogen, claiming responsibility for 95% of seafood-related deaths. Currently, the molecular mechanisms through which some strains of this bacteria emerge to become pathogens are unknown. The main focus of this study is to expand upon the base of knowledge surrounding this question through comparing virulence phenotypes in environmentally collected strains of V. vulnificus. Specifically, this study will evaluate the pathogenic potential of environmental isolates collected from water and oyster sources in Lee County, Florida, in lieu of the outbreak that occurred in October 2022. To test this, a variety of assays were performed. First, a phylogenetic tree was built to establish the relationships between strains. Next, to study in vitro responses, serum resistance assays and sialic acid growth curves were performed. Then, to further classify the pathogenic potential of these environmental strains, they were tested against THP-1 monocytes differentiated into macrophages for their ability to resist phagocytosis and induce apoptosis. This study found differential responses amongst the environmental isolates, with some exhibiting significant pathogenic potential and others being sensitive to all tested assays. Understanding which strains emerge as pathogens will help determine the prevalence of key virulence factors within natural populations of bacteria and provide critical data on the phenotypic outcomes of differing genotypes.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Almagro-Moreno, Salvador


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Sciences



Access Status

Campus Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Release Date