Melioidosis (Whitmore's Disease)

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Melioidosis facts

  • Melioidosis is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei.
  • Melioidosis infection commonly involves the lungs.
  • Melioidosis is diagnosed with the help of blood, urine, sputum, or skin-lesion testing.
  • Melioidosis is treated with antibiotics.
  • The overall mortality rate is 40%.

What is melioidosis? What causes melioidosis?

Melioidosis, also called Whitmore's Disease, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Burkholderia pseudomallei (previously known as Pseudomonas pseudomallei). The bacteria are found in contaminated water and soil and spread to humans and animals through direct contact with the contaminated source. The bacteria are also of some concern as a potential agent for biological warfare and biological terrorism.

Melioidosis is similar to glanders disease, which is passed to humans from infected domestic animals.

Where does melioidosis occur?

Melioidosis is most frequently reported in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. It also occurs in South Pacific, Africa, India, and the Middle East. The bacterium that causes the disease is found in the soil, rice paddies, and stagnant waters of the area. People acquire the disease by inhaling dust contaminated by the bacteria and when the contaminated soil comes in contact with abraded (scraped) area of the skin. Infection most commonly occurs during the rainy season.

In the United States, confirmed cases range from none to five each year and occur among travelers and immigrants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015

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