Assessment of polyaromatic hydrocarbon degradation by potentially pathogenic environmental Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolates from coastal Louisiana, USA

Conor B. Smith, Louisiana State University
Crystal N. Johnson, Louisiana State University
Gary M. King, Louisiana State University


A presumed Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolate from Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA was previously reported to grow on phenanthrene, a polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) found in crude oil. Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, concerns were raised that PAH-degrading V. parahaemolyticus could increase in abundance, leading to elevated risks of disease derived from shellfish consumption. To assess this possibility, we examined responses to naphthalene and phenanthrene of 17 coastal Louisiana environmental V. parahaemolyticus isolates representing five distinct genotypes. Isolates were obtained immediately after the spill began and after oil had reached the Louisiana coast. None of the isolates grew on or oxidized either substrate and a naphthalene degradation product, 1-naphthol, substantially inhibited growth of some isolates. The use of PAH by V. parahaemolyticus is unusual, and an increase in human health risks due to stimulation of V. parahaemolyticus growth by oil-derived PAH under in situ conditions appears unlikely. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.