N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac, sialic acid) could provide a good substrate for enteropathogenic bacteria in the intestine, when the bacteria invade and colonize in human gut. In order to analyze the role of Neu5Ac catabolism in Vibrio vulnificus pathogenesis, a mutant with disruption of the nanA gene encoding Neu5Ac lyase was constructed by allelic exchanges. The nanA mutant was not able to utilize Neu5Ac as a sole carbon source and revealed an altered colony morphotype with reduced opacity in the presence of Neu5Ac. Compared to the wild type, the nanA mutant exhibited a low level of cytotoxicity toward INT-407 epithelial cells in vitro and reduced virulence in a mouse model. The disruption of nanA also resulted in a substantial decrease in histopathological damage in jejunum and colon tissues from the mouse intestine. These results indicated that NanA plays an important role in V. vulnificus pathogenesis. In addition, the nanA mutant was significantly diminished in growth with and adherence to INT-407 epithelial cells in vitro, and was defective for intestinal colonization, reflecting the impaired ability of the mutant to grow and survive with, persist in, and adhere to the intestine in vivo. Consequently, the combined results suggest that NanA and the capability of catabolic utilization of Neu5Ac contribute to V. vulnificus virulence by ensuring growth, adhesion, and survival during infection.