What are melioidosis?
Melioidosis is an infectious disease that occurs frequently elsewhere in the world, yet is uncommon in the United States. It is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. It occurs primarily in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific and northern Australia to persons with diabetes, kidney or liver disease or problems with their immune systems.
What are the symptoms of melioidosis?
The symptoms of melioidosis are similar to glanders and will depend on the location where bacteria entered the body. The disease can cause little to no illness, or it can be severe and lead to death. Infections can be worse in persons who have diabetes, alcoholism, liver or kidney problems.
Skin infections: A skin infection can occur where the bacteria entered a break in the skin. A nodule (pimple) can turn into a draining ulcer. Fever and muscle aches are common. Swollen lymph glands may also occur. A pus-filled infection of the parotid gland (parotid abscess) has been reported frequently in Southeast Asian children.
Pulmonary (lung) infections: Lung infections cause fever, muscle aches, headache, chest pain and a dry cough. Pneumonia or bronchitis can occur.
Bloodstream infections: Bloodstream infections can lead to rapid death. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria can quickly spread throughout the body. Symptoms include fever, breathing difficulty, severe headache, diarrhea, muscle tenderness and disorientation. If the patient survives, pus-filled pockets of infection (abscesses) are usually found in the skin, muscles and internal organs. Brain infections (encephalitis) also can occur.
Chronic infections: The chronic form of melioidosis involves draining abscesses within the muscles, joints of the arms and legs, lymph glands and internal organs.
How soon after infections do symptoms appear?
After exposure to the glanders bacteria, symptoms can begin as soon as a few days or as long as a few weeks afterward.
Who gets melioidosis?
Persons are more likely to contract melioidosis if they are diabetic and work in or visit wet Southeast Asian environments, such as rice paddies. Anyone can get melioidosis if they come in contact with the bacterial agent.
Why have melioidosis and glanders become a current issue?
These agents have been considered as potential agents for biological warfare and of biological terrorism.</!--AND-->
How is melioidosis spread?Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium that causes melioidosis, is found in the wet soils and waters of Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, China, India and Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, in Central and South America. People become infected when the bacteria enter skin wounds, abrasions or other breaks in the skin, if contaminated water is swallowed or by breathing in contaminated dust or small droplets of contaminated water. Melioidosis can spread from person to person by contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. Sexual transmission of the disease can occur.
Is melioidosis contagious?
Some person-to-person transmission of melioidosis has been reported, but it is rare.
How is melioidoisis diagnosed?
The bacteria that cause melioidosis grows easily in a laboratory from samples of blood, sputum, urine or pus. Sometimes, other laboratory tests are used to diagnose this disease.
What is the treatment for melioidosis?The bacteria that cause melioidosis are resistant to many antibiotics and are difficult to kill. Up to 5 months of antibiotic therapy is recommended to cure melioidosis and prevent the disease from coming back. Most patients are treated with a combination of intravenous and oral antibiotics.
Is there a way to prevent melioidosis infection?
Persons with diabetes and skin lesions should avoid contact with soil and standing water in areas where melioidosis occurs. Wearing boots during agricultural work can prevent infection through the feet and lower legs. Hospital infections can be prevented by wearing gloves, masks and eye shields. There is no vaccine available to prevent melioidosis.
Is melioidosis a potential bioterrorism threat?
The U.S. government considers Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium that causes melioidosis, to be a potential agent for biological warfare and of biological terrorism.
What has New York City done to address the threat of melioidosis?
Many federal, State, and City agencies-including the New York City Health Deparment has been working together for several years to prepare for the detection and response to a bioterrorist event in New York City. In cooperation with other emergency response agencies, DOHMH has set in place systems that improve our ability to detect and respond to public health emergencies caused by the intentional release of a biological agent.
For more information about melioidosis, visit the CDC Website.
Last updated November 2011.