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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2009 Nov;33(6):1079-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2009.00189.x. Epub 2009 Aug 5.

The molecular and cellular basis of pathogenesis in melioidosis: how does Burkholderia pseudomallei cause disease?

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1
Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia. ben.adler@med.monash.edu.au

Abstract

Melioidosis, a febrile illness with disease states ranging from acute pneumonia or septicaemia to chronic abscesses, was first documented by Whitmore & Krishnaswami (1912). The causative agent, Burkholderia pseudomallei, was subsequently identified as a motile, gram-negative bacillus, which is principally an environmental saprophyte. Melioidosis has become an increasingly important disease in endemic areas such as northern Thailand and Australia (Currie et al., 2000). This health burden, plus the classification of B. pseudomallei as a category B biological agent (Rotz et al., 2002), has resulted in an escalation of research interest. This review focuses on the molecular and cellular basis of pathogenesis in melioidosis, with a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge on how B. pseudomallei can cause disease. The process of B. pseudomallei movement from the environmental reservoir to attachment and invasion of epithelial and macrophage cells and the subsequent intracellular survival and spread is outlined. Furthermore, the diverse assortment of virulence factors that allow B. pseudomallei to become an effective opportunistic pathogen, as well as to avoid or subvert the host immune response, is discussed. With the recent increase in genomic and molecular studies, the current understanding of the infection process of melioidosis has increased substantially, yet, much still remains to be elucidated.

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