BMC Microbiology March 23, 2020 | DOI: 10.1186/s12866-020-01746-2
Divya Meparambu Prabhakaran, Thandavarayan Ramamurthy & Sabu Thomas
Background: V. parahaemolyticus is autochthonous to the marine environment and causes seafood-borne gastroenteritis in humans. Generally, V. parahaemolyticus recovered from the environment and/or seafood is thought to be non-pathogenic and the relationship between environmental isolates and acute diarrhoeal disease is poorly understood. In this study, we explored the virulence potential of environmental V. parahaemolyticus isolated from water, plankton and assorted seafood samples collected from the Indian coast.
Results: Twenty-two V. parahaemolyticus isolates from seafood harboured virulence associated genes encoding the thermostable-direct haemolysin (TDH), TDH-related haemolysin (TRH), and Type 3 secretion systems (T3SS) and 95.5% of the toxigenic isolates had pandemic strain attributes (toxRS/new+). Nine serovars, with pandemic strain traits were newly identified and an O4:K36 tdh-trh+V. parahaemolyticus bearing pandemic marker gene was recognised for the first time. Results obtained by reverse transcription PCR showed trh, T3SS1 and T3SS2β to be functional in the seafood isolates. Moreover, the environmental strains were cytotoxic and could invade Caco-2 cells upon infection as well as induce changes to the tight junction protein, ZO-1 and the actin cytoskeleton.
Conclusion: Our study provides evidence that environmental isolates of V. parahaemolyticus are potentially invasive and capable of eliciting pathogenic characteristics typical of clinical strains and present a potential health risk. We also demonstrate that virulence of this pathogen is highly complex and hence draws attention for the need to investigate more reliable virulence markers in order to distinguish the environmental and clinical isolates, which will be crucial for the pathogenomics and control of this pathogen.