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Rise and fall of pandemic Vibrio parahaemolyticus serotype O3:K6 in southern Chile

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Summary

Seafood consumption-related diarrhoea increased drastically in Chile when the pandemic strain of Vibrio parahaemolyticus serotype O3:K6 reached Region de Los Lagos, where most of Chile's seafood is produced. Outbreaks peaked in 2005 with 3725 clinical cases in this region and gradually decreased to fewer than 10 cases in 2010 and 2011. We show here that the pandemic strain concurrently vanished from mussels; we also report further environmental data. Integration of the 2010/2011 data with those obtained since 2004 suggests that after its arrival in southern Chile, the pandemic strain grew in mussels, likely facilitated by a minor rise in surface seawater temperature and by warming of the mussels in the intertidal region due to frequent sunny days. However, since these environmental parameters probably equally affected the pandemic strain and more than 30 V. parahaemolyticus DNA restriction clusters that inhabit local shellfish, a selective effect of bacteriophages is proposed. Lytic bacteriophage VP93 may have favoured the growth of the pandemic strain versus similar phage-sensitive strains, as shown here in a particular case. However, the pandemic strain's decline may have been promoted by temperate phage VP58.5, which kills the pandemic strain and increases the UV sensitivity of lysogenized phage-resistant cells.

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