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Emerg Infect Dis. 2008 Jul;14(7):e2. doi: 10.3201/eid1407.071501.

Management of accidental laboratory exposure to Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei.

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Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.


The gram-negative bacillus Burkholderia pseudomallei is a saprophyte and the cause of melioidosis. Natural infection is most commonly reported in northeast Thailand and northern Australia but also occurs in other parts of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean. Melioidosis develops after bacterial inoculation or inhalation, often in relation to occupational exposure in areas where the disease is endemic. Clinical infection has a peak incidence between the fourth and fifth decades; with diabetes mellitus, excess alcohol consumption, chronic renal failure, and chronic lung disease acting as independent risk factors. Most affected adults ( approximately 80%) in northeast Thailand, northern Australia, and Malaysia have >/=1 underlying diseases. Symptoms of melioidosis may be exhibited many years after exposure, commonly in association with an alteration in immune status. Manifestations of disease are extremely broad ranging and form a spectrum from rapidly life-threatening sepsis to chronic low-grade infection. A common clinical picture is that of sepsis associated with bacterial dissemination to distant sites, frequently causing concomitant pneumonia and liver and splenic abscesses. Infection may also occur in bone, joints, skin, soft tissue, or the prostate. The clinical symptoms of melioidosis mimic those of many other diseases; thus, differentiating between melioidosis and other acute and chronic bacterial infections, including tuberculosis, is often impossible. Confirmation of the diagnosis relies on good practices for specimen collection, laboratory culture, and isolation of B. pseudomallei. The overall mortality rate of infected persons is 50% in northeast Thailand (35% in children) and 19% in Australia.

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