V. parahaemolyticus is a genetically and serotypically diverse species. Outbreaks prior to 1996 were geographically isolated and associated with a diversity of serotypes. Since 1996, the O3:K6 serotype and its related serovariants, recognized as the pandemic clonal complex have been associated with the dramatic increase in V. parahaemolyticus outbreaks world-wide. However, outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest have been associated with strains serotypically and genetically distinct from the O3:K6 serotype.
We are comparing the diversity of illness-associated and environmental V. parahaemolyticus isolates from the Pacific Northwest to strains isolated from clinical cases elsewhere in the world using a variety of genetic and genomic methods, including whole genome sequencing. The goal of this work is the identification of new biomarkers that can potentially be used for rapid detection of potentially pathogenic isolates. These efforts may assist in the improvement of risk assessment strategies and in developing and enhancing forecasting abilities to prevent V. parahaemolyticus-related illnesses.