<Em>Burkholderia pseudomallei</em> grown on sheep blood agar for 24 hours. <em>B. pseudomallei</em> is a Gram-negative aerobic bacteria, and it's the causative agent of melioidosis.
Enlarge / Burkholderia pseudomallei grown on sheep blood agar for 24 hours. B. pseudomallei is a Gram-negative aerobic bacteria, and it's the causative agent of melioidosis.

There have been sporadic cases of melioidosis in the US for a long time. Travelers and people who came in contact with contaminated goods or animals were thought to be the most likely to contract the disease. There were no recent travel or clear links when an American fell ill.

Health officials have a final explanation. It shows that the deadly bacterium is no longer foreign. It's a permanent US resident who lives in America.

Three samples taken from soil and puddle water in the Gulf Coast region of southern Mississippi tested positive for the bacterium, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday. The sampling was part of an investigation into two mysterious cases in the area that occurred in 2020 and 2022. The positive test results mark the first time that investigators have caught the deadly germ in US environmental samples, though they've been looking for it for years.

It is not known how long the bacterium has resided in the US or how widespread it is. The environmental conditions of the Gulf Coast states are said to be good for the growth of the bacterium. Sampling has been called for.

The most important thing at the moment is for health officials to let the world know about the cases. This is no longer a problem for travelers. In a health advisory released yesterday, the CDC emphasized that its notice "serves to alert clinicians and public health officials throughout the country to consider melioidosis in patients whose clinical presentation is compatible with signs and symptoms of the disease."


New resident

There are rare but dangerous sporadic infections caused by the bacterium that lives in the soil and water of tropical and subtropical areas. The areas with the highest endemicity are in Southeast Asia and northern Australia, but it can also be found in Southwest Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas.

Melioidosis can be caused by various ways by B. pseudomallei. If people ingest contaminated soil, water, or food, breathe in contaminated dust or water droplets, or come in contact with a break in the skin, they can be exposed to diseases. People with certain conditions, such as diabetes, heavy alcohol use, chronic lung disease, and chronic kidney disease, are more at risk of melioidosis. It's good to know that the infections are rarely transmitted from person to person.

Symptoms of melioidosis can be determined by which route B. pseudomallei takes into the body. If it enters through a skin wound it could cause a lot of problems. If it enters the blood, it can cause problems. It can cause coughing and chest pain if it enters through the lungs. If it goes systemic, it can cause a number of health problems. The symptoms can be hard to distinguish from other conditions. It has been described as the "great mimicker" because of how easy it is to mistake it for other serious infections.

Its nature makes it hard to meet deadlines. B. pseudomallei is able to resist many antibiotics. The bacterium can cause more severe disease if the diagnosis is delayed. Melioidosis is fatal in 90 percent of people who are not treated. The death rate can be reduced if people are treated with the correct antibiotics. The death rate can be reduced if patients have access to the right drugs.


The US government considers B. pseudomallei to be a bioterrorism threat because it is one of the top tier select agents.

US cases

Most of the melioidosis cases in the US are travel related. There have been strange exceptions over the years.

Last year, melioidosis made headlines when four people in four states became infected with the same strain of B. pseudomallei. The first unexplained cases, which was fatal, occurred in an adult in Kansas in March. Then, another adult in Minnesota survived, and a 4-year-old in Texas was left with brain damage. Last, a child in Georgia was identified as a case through a post-mortem exam.

The strain of B. pseudomallei that caused the infections was found in an aromatic room spray made in India. Walmart sold the Better homes and gardens lavender and chamomile essential oil infused aromatherapy room spray with gemstones.

The cluster drew attention to other cases in the US that had raised suspicion that B. pseudomallei was in the US. Researchers at the CDC surveyed 34 human melioidosis cases in the US between 2008 and 2013 and found that the cases appeared to be increasing every year. According to the study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, B. pseudomallei could be an emerging infectious disease in the US.

Three cases of melioidosis occurred in US residents with no travel history either outside of the United States or to regions where melioidosis is endemic, which may indicate unrecognized sources of exposure in the United States. Being aware that B. pseudomallei can be seen in people who have not traveled to places where it is endemic is important.

The case report was published in 2020 and was written by CDC researchers. There was a case of melioidosis in a 63-year-old man from Atascosa County, Texas. He only reported a trip to Mexico 30 years before his illness.