Melioidosis

Cause

Burkholderia pseudomallei

Similar species

Melioidosis is a bacterial disease that occurs primarily in tropical and subtropical areas. Goats, sheep, pigs, horses, camels, alpaca and llama, rodents and people can be affected but it is rare in cattle. Contaminated soil, mud and water are sources of infection.

Where the disease occurs

Melioidosis occurs rarely in Queensland and most cases are reported north of Bowen. Occasional cases have occurred as far south as Brisbane.

The disease in animals

Infected animals are reported occasionally from the north of Queensland and are investigated with particular concern for the safety of people. Clinical signs vary between species but are mainly weakness, respiratory disease, nasal discharge and recumbency. Nervous signs have been recorded. Treatment is unlikely to be undertaken in farm animals due to the risk to humans.

How people can get the disease

The organism exists in the soil and people usually contract the disease from this source. While animals certainly contribute to the contamination of the soil, this disease is not strictly spread from animals to humans.

Military personnel have developed the disease in association with inhalation of dust stirred up by helicopters.

The disease is not readily contracted and usually there is another underlying condition (e.g. diabetes, alcoholism) that results in increased susceptibility.

Treatments for people

Antibiotics are used to treat this disease. Long courses of treatment are required.

Preventing the disease in people
  • Avoid exposure to water and soil in periods of high rainfall, particularly in tropical areas
  • In areas where melioidosis occurs, immediately and thoroughly clean any abrasions, cuts and burns that have been contaminated with soil or surface water
  • People with debilitating diseases and those with traumatic wounds should avoid exposure to soil and surface water

Further information

Last updated 27 September 2012