In 1996 an outbreak of severe soft tissue infections caused by Vibrio vulnificus unexpectedly erupted in fish consumers in Israel with relatively little morbidity in fish farmers. To test the hypothesis that recurrent exposure of fishermen to the virulent strain may have provided protection against severe or symptomatic disease, we investigated the association between the immune response to V. vulnificus biotype 3 lipopolysaccharide (BT3 LPS) and disease susceptibility in fish farmers and fish consumers. Serum samples were tested for IgA and IgG of anti-BT3 LPS in fishermen and fish consumers who suffered from V. vulnificus BT3 infections and their matched controls. Pre-existing levels of IgG (IgG0) of anti-BT3 LPS were significantly lower in diseased fishermen who developed disease associated with the homologous biotype, compared to controls. In multivariate analysis, levels of IgG0 anti-BT3 LPS remained the only variable significantly associated with disease occurrence in fishermen. Higher levels of pre-existing IgG anti-BT 3 LPS antibodies may be associated with protection against severe or symptomatic disease with the homologous biotype in fishermen but not in subjects from the general public.
- Vibrio vulnificus
- foodborne zoonoses