Shark culture

A death from shark attack off the Western Australian coast this week prompted a colleague to ask about infections following shark bites. Just this month, a Brazilian group published a paper on shark oral bacteria.  At the beginning of their research methods they describehow they captured four bull and five tiger sharks 20km off the Recife coast with longlines. That’s field work you can sink your teeth into.

Perhaps the most surprising bit of the report is that no researchers were harmed in these experiments.

The following bacteria were found around the teeth of the captured sharks:

Gram negative

  • Enterobacter cloacae, E.aerogenes
  • Citrobacter freundii, C. koseri, C.farmeri
  • Proteus mirabilis, P. vulgaris
  • Moellerella wisconcensis
  • Providencia alcalifaciens
  • Escherichia coli
  • Leclercia adecarboxylata
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Ps. stutzeri
  • Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio spp.
  • Acinetobacter sp.

Gram positive

  • Staphylococcus epidermidis, S.sciuri, S.warneri, S.hominis, S.xylosus
  • Streptoccus (viridans group)
  • Enterococcus species

The first reported analysis of bacteria from the mouth of a shark investigated the bacterial flora of a great white and found several marine Vibrios. The presence of these species in the mouths of bull and tiger sharks captured off the coast of northeastern Brazil is interesting, and reinforces the need for  antibiotics effective against marine bacteria such as Vibrio species when treating shark-induced injury.

Not that this is going to happen every day. Shark attacks are rare in the overall scheme of things, fatal attacks occurring in this part of the world only once every few years. Interesting, then that Recife has seen an unusually high rate of shark attacks in recent years. It is also a good place to capture sharks. For those that really need to know the gory details, an international record of shark attacks has been maintained at the University of Florida. The record contains over 4000 investigations with an overall mortality of shark attack at 8.3%.

There are some great resources for worldwide shark attack maps including


  1. Torferson the Brave says

    …Thanks for that Tim. Sheds a whole new perspective on flesh eating bacteria.

  2. Global shark culture and shark infection!

  3. RT @sandnsurf: Global shark culture and shark infection!

  4. Sink your teeth in it! RT @sandnsurf Global shark culture and shark infection!

  5. RT @sandnsurf: Global shark culture and shark infection!

  6. Shark bite. Shark culture. Fascinating bacteriology of a shark bite

  7. RT @James457: Shark bite. Shark culture. Fascinating bacteriology of a shark bite – wonder if Aussie sharks have dift

  8. My 13 yr old niece was bitten by a 6′ black tip shark off New Smyrna Beach 6/2/12. Wound looks like a ripped flesh wound; required 21 stitches. Has been on several different antibiotics to prevent infection, but has now acquired infection. She needs an infectious disease doctor w/ experience in this field. She lives near New Smyrna. Who would you recommend?

    • Micrognome cannot recommend specific physicians or therapy for specific cases.
      But if this were a mini-micrognome, the best parental gnome course of action would be to ask the family doctor for feedback on the pathology tests. The Brazil study previously highlighted on this website shows that the most likely bacteria are commonly encountered species. However, persistence of infection or reinfection this long after the initial trauma probably warrants further detailed investigation.

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