Hello trebor8-ga, and thank you for your question.
First, let's begin with a brief dictionary definition from the
American Heritage Dictionary, which is online at Bartleby.com:
melioidosis--A highly fatal infectious bacterial disease, primarily
occurring in rodents in India and Southeast Asia, that is
characterized in humans by systemic caseous nodules.
The definition gets at some of the key facts about melioidosis -- it's
a dangerous disease that can be fatal; it's infectious -- that is, can
be passed from one sick person (or animal) to another; it's caused by
bacteria; it exists primarily in animals, but can infect humans as
well; and it's largely a regional disease that mostly occurs in India
and Southeast Asia.
The definition also mentions "caseous nodules" (caseous means
"cheese-like") as a symptom of the disease, although I don't think
this is universally the case. Melioidosis can manifest itself in a
number of different forms, as will be discussed below.
A much more detailed description of melioidosis can be found at the
site for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
I have included some verbatim extracts from this site, below, along
with my own comments, which I have placed in brackets:
What is melioidosis?
Melioidosis, also called Whitmore?s disease, is an infectious disease
caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. Melioidosis is
clinically and pathologically similar to glanders disease, but the
ecology and epidemiology of melioidosis are different from glanders.
Melioidosis is predominately a disease of tropical climates,
especially in Southeast Asia where it is endemic. The bacteria causing
melioidosis are found in contaminated water and soil and are spread to
humans and animals through direct contact with the contaminated
source. Glanders is contracted by humans from infected domestic
[Like so many tropical diseases, melioidosis is spread via contact
with contaminated water and other environmental routes. It is closely
related to another disease (mostly of animals) called glanders -- if
you're interested in more information about glanders, you can find it
How common is melioidosis and where is it found?
Melioidosis is endemic in Southeast Asia, with the greatest
concentration of cases reported in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand,
Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), and northern Australia. Additionally, it is
seen in the South Pacific, Africa, India, and the Middle East. In many
of these countries, Burkholderia pseudomallei is so prevalent that it
is a common contaminate found on laboratory cultures. Moreover, it has
been a common pathogen isolated from troops of all nationalities that
have served in areas with endemic disease. A few isolated cases of
melioidosis have occurred in the Western Hemisphere in Mexico, Panama,
Ecuador, Haiti, Brazil, Peru, Guyana, and in the states of Hawaii and
Georgia. In the United States, confirmed cases range from none to five
each year and occur among travelers and immigrants.
[The disease is very rare outside the tropics, and most of those who
contract melioidosis in, say, the United States, have travelled to the
tropics, where they contracted the disease. However, other routes of
exposure and infection are possible].
How is melioidosis transmitted and who can get it?
Besides humans, many animal species are susceptible to melioidosis.
These include sheep, goats, horses, swine, cattle, dogs, and cats.
Transmission occurs by direct contact with contaminated soil and
surface waters. In Southeast Asia, the organism has been repeatedly
isolated from agriculture fields, with infection occurring primarily
during the rainy season. Humans and animals are believed to acquire
the infection by inhalation of dust, ingestion of contaminated water,
and contact with contaminated soil especially through skin abrasions,
and for military troops, by contamination of war wounds.
Person-to-person transmission can occur. There is one report of
transmission to a sister with diabetes who was the caretaker for her
brother who had chronic melioidosis. Two cases of sexual transmission
have been reported. Transmission in both cases was preceded by a
clinical history of chronic prostatitis in the source patient.
[The main route of infection appears to be direct exposure to the
bacteria from environmental routes -- water, soil, inhalation, etc.
However, person-to-person infection is also known, and can occur
through sexual contact or other close contact...the write-up seems to
imply that this route of infection is relatively uncommon, however].
What are the symptoms of melioidosis?
Illness from melioidosis can be categorized as acute or localized
infection, acute pulmonary infection, acute bloodstream infection, and
chronic suppurative infection. Inapparent infections are also
possible. The incubation period (time between exposure and appearance
of clinical symptoms) is not clearly defined, but may range from 2
days to many years.
[The disease's incubation does not appear to be well-understood, but
even exposure from several years ago can lead to a current case of
--Acute, localized infection: This form of infection is generally
localized as a nodule and results from inoculation through a break in
the skin. The acute form of melioidosis can produce fever and general
muscle aches, and may progress rapidly to infect the bloodstream.
[Exposure through a break in the skin can lead to localized, infected
nodules and other symptoms].
--Pulmonary infection: This form of the disease can produce a clinical
picture of mild bronchitis to severe pneumonia. The onset of pulmonary
melioidosis is typically accompanied by a high fever, headache,
anorexia, and general muscle soreness. Chest pain is common, but a
nonproductive or productive cough with normal sputum is the hallmark
of this form of melioidosis.
[This form of the disease can easily be mistaken for other common
illnesses, like bronchitis].
--Acute bloodstream infection: Patients with underlying illness such
as HIV, renal failure, and diabetes are affected by this type of the
disease, which usually results in septic shock. The symptoms of the
bloodstream infection vary depending on the site of original
infection, but they generally include respiratory distress, severe
headache, fever, diarrhea, development of pus-filled lesions on the
skin, muscle tenderness, and disorientation. This is typically an
infection of short duration, and abscesses will be found throughout
[You specifically mentioned "blood poisoning" in your question, and I
imagine that would be related to the "septic shock" aspects of a
bloodstream infection. Ordinarily, this form of melioidosis only
occurs in patients with other, underlying diseases].
--Chronic suppurative infection: Chronic melioidosis is an infection
that involves the organs of the body. These typically include the
joints, viscera, lymph nodes, skin, brain, liver, lung, bones, and
[Chronic infection of the organs can, I believe, also be associated
with septic shock].
Is there a treatment for melioidosis?
Most cases of melioidosis can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.
Burkholderia psuedomallei, the organism that causes melioidosis, is
usually sensitive to imipenem, penicillin, doxycycline,
amoxycillin-clavulanic acid, azlocillin, ceftazidime,
ticarcillin-vulanic acid, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam. Treatment should
be initiated early in the course of the disease. Although bloodstream
infection with melioidosis can be fatal, the other types of the
disease are nonfatal. The type of infection and the course of
treatment can predict any long-term sequelae.
[As a bacterial disease, melioidosis can usually be successfully
treated with antibiotics. The earlier the treatment begins, the
Why has melioidosis become a current issue?
Burkholderia pseudomallei is an organism that has been considered as a
potential agent for biological warfare and biological terrorism.
[An odd facet of this disease is that the bacteria that causes
melioidosis it has made the lists of potential bioterrorism agents].
I hope the information here fully meets your needs, and that -- if you
or someone you know is confronting a case of melioidosis -- that it is
quickly and successfully treated.
Please bear in mind that I am not a medical professional, and nothing
I've presented here should be a substitute for professional medical
Here are a few other useful links to additional detailed information
Basic Summary for Melioidosis
Glanders and Melioidosis
[good discussion of septicemia (blood poisoning) at this link]
[abstracts of medical journal articles published on melioidosis]
If you need any additional information, just let me know by posting a
Request for Clarification and I'll be happy to assist you further.
Best of luck in the new year.
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