Abstract Vibrio vulnificus biotype 2 serovar E (Bt2-serE) is a zoonotic pathogen that causes a haemorrhagic septicaemia in eels, called warm water vibriosis. The main objective of the present work was to study the onset of the eel vibriosis from the microbiological and histopathological viewpoint, as well as to ascertain the role of the protease Vvp as a lesional factor by comparing the histopathological lesions caused by the wild strain and its vvp deficient derivative. The wild-type strain was observed to attach to the gills, where it multiplied following saturation dynamics, subsequently invading the blood stream and reaching the internal organs. Here it reached population sizes that are notably lower than those associated with other fish septicaemia. Parallel to bacterial growth, there was a notable decrease in haematocrit values and haemoglobin concentration in blood as well as extensive haemorrhages in all the analysed organs. The main histopathological lesions were detected in the head kidney in the form of extensive necrosis affecting the haematopoietic tissue. Very few bacteria were visualized in the different organs, most of which were close to blood cells and capillary vessels, which is compatible with the results obtained in the microbiological study. The same lesions were produced when extracellular products (ECPs) were injected instead of bacteria or when the vvp-defective mutant or its ECPs were injected. The overall results suggest that the pathology caused by V. vulnificus in the eel is not caused by massive bacterial growth in the blood and internal organs but, rather, by the effect of potent toxic factors other than the metalloprotease, which have yet to be determined.