Melioidosis

Melioidosis is a bacterial disease that occurs primarily in tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Scientific name

Burkholderia pseudomallei

Distribution in Queensland

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

Affected animals

goats; sheep; pigs; horses; camels; alpaca and llama; rodents; humans; cattle

Hosts

Goats, sheep, pigs, horses, camels, alpaca and llama, rodents, humans, cattle

Symptoms

Clinical signs vary between species, but are mainly:

  • weakness
  • respiratory disease
  • nasal discharge
  • recumbency
  • nervous signs have been recorded.

This disease is rare in cattle.

How it is spread

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.

Control

Infected animals are investigated with particular concern for the safety of people.

Prevention

  • 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.

Treatment

Treatment is unlikely to be undertaken in farm animals due to the risk to humans.

Antibiotics are used to treat the disease in people. Long courses of treatment are required.