FRIDAY, March 31, 2023 (HealthDay News) — The opportunistic bacterial pathogen Vibrio vulnificus is projected to expand its current range, and infections may be present in every Eastern U.S. state by 2081 to 2100, according to a study published online March 23 in Scientific Reports.

Elizabeth J. Archer, from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and colleagues assessed the changing disease distribution using a 30-year database of V. vulnificus cases for the Eastern United States. To identify links to oceanographic and climate data, an ecological niche model was developed, trained, and validated. Using data simulated by seven Global Climate Models, the model was used to predict future disease distribution. Predictions were generated for different pathways of global socioeconomic development, including greenhouse gas emissions and demographic changes.

The researchers noted there was an eightfold increase in V. vulnificus wound infections in the Eastern United States between 1988 and 2018 (from 10 to 80 cases per year), and the Northern case limit shifted northward by 48 km per year. V. vulnificus infections may expand their current range to encompass major population centers around New York by 2041 to 2060. Annual case numbers may double in combination with a growing and increasingly elderly population. Under medium-to-high future emissions and warming, V. vulnificus infections may be present in every Eastern U.S. state by 2081 to 2100.

“Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are changing our climate and the impacts may be especially acute on the world’s coastlines, which provide a major boundary between natural ecosystems and human populations and are an important source of human disease,” Archer said in a statement.

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