Background: Vibrio vulnificus is an opportunistic human pathogen that is widely distributed in estuarine environments and is capable of causing necrotizing fasciitis and sepsis. In Japan, based on epidemiological research, the incidences of V. vulnificus were concentrated in Kyusyu, mainly in coastal areas of the Ariake Sea. To examine the virulence potential, various genotyping methods have recently been developed. This study aimed to investigate the distribution of virulence markers among V. vulnificus isolates of clinical and environmental origin in three coastal areas with different infection incidences and to determine whether these isolates have the siderophore encoding gene viuB. Methodology/Principal Findings: We examined the distribution of genotypes of the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) gene, vvhA, vcg, and capsular polysaccharide (CPS), and the presence of viuB in 156 isolates collected from patients and environmental samples in Japan. The environmental samples were collected from three coastal areas: the Ariake Sea, Ise & Mikawa Bay, and Karatsu Bay. The results showed disparity in the ratios of genotypes depending on the sample origins. V. vulnificus isolates obtained from patients were classified into the clinical type for all genotypes. In the environmental isolates, the ratios of the clinical type for genotypes of the 16S rRNA gene, vvhA, and vcg were in the order of the Ariake Sea>Ise & Mikawa Bay>Karatsu Bay. Meanwhile, CPS analysis showed no significant difference. Most isolates possessed viuB. Conclusions: Many V. vulnificus belonging to the clinical type existed in the Ariake Sea. Three coastal areas with different infection incidences showed distinct ratios of genotypes. This may indicate that the distribution of clinical isolates correlates with the incidence of V. vulnificus infection.
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