This halophilic organism was isolated from the middle ear fluid specimen from a 22-year-old man with a long-standing history of asthma and chronic otitis media with recurring infections, who related that he had recently been swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Although this uncommon pathogen seldom is implicated in ear infections, it should be cultured for when the patient has a history of swimming in salt water. Infections caused by V. alginolyticus usually are self limiting, but in this case the organism was found to be resistant to the penicillins and vancomycin, antibiotics that are commonly employed in the treatment of otitis media. The patient responded well to chloramphenicol therapy. The biochemical activity of the isolate and the most useful microbiologic characteristics for differentiating V. alginolyticus from the other Vibrio species are discussed in depth.
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