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J Dermatol. 2006 Sep;33(9):589-95.

Vibrio vulnificus infection and metalloprotease.

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Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Okayama University, Tsushima-Naka, Okayama, Japan.


Vibrio vulnificus is ubiquitous in aquatic environments; however, it occasionally causes serious and often fatal infections in humans. These include invasive septicemia contracted through consumption of raw seafood, as well as wound infections acquired through contact with brackish or marine waters. In most cases of septicemia, the patients have underlying disease(s), such as liver dysfunction or alcoholic cirrhosis, and the secondary skin lesions including cellulitis, edema and hemorrhagic bulla appear on the limbs. Although V. Vul produces various virulent factors including polysaccharide capsule, type IV pili, hemolysin and proteolytic enzymes, the 45-kDa metalloprotease may be a causative factor of the skin lesions, because the purified protease enhances vascular permeability through generation of chemical mediators and also induces serious hemorrhagic damage through digestion of the vascular basement membrane. As well as other bacteria, V. Vul can regulate the protease production through the quorum-sensing system depending on bacterial cell density. However, this system operates efficiently at 25 degrees C, but not at 37 degrees C. Therefore, V. vulnificus may produce sufficient amounts of the protease only in the interstitial tissue of the limbs, in which temperature is lower than the internal temperature of the human body.

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