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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What are symptoms of melioidosis?

Melioidosis symptoms most commonly stem from lung disease where the infection can form a cavity of pus (abscess). The effects can range from mild bronchitis to severe pneumonia. As a result, patients also may experience fever, headache, loss of appetite, cough, chest pain, and general muscle soreness.

The effects can also be localized to infection on the skin (cellulitis) with associated fever and muscle aches. It can spread from the skin through the blood to become a chronic form of melioidosis affecting the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, joints, and eyes.

Melioidosis can be spread from person to person as well.

How is melioidosis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of melioidosis is made with a microscopic evaluation of a blood, urine, sputum, or skin-lesion sample in the laboratory. A blood test is useful to detect early acute cases of melioidosis, but it can not exclude the illness if it is negative.

How is melioidosis treated?

The treatment of melioidosis involves antibiotics and depends on the location of the disease.

For patients with more mild illness, the CDC recommends antibiotics such as imipenem, penicillin, doxycycline, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, ceftazidime, ticarcillin-clavulanic acid, ceftriaxone, and aztreonam. Patients who are more severely ill are given a combination of two of the above for three to six months.

With pulmonary involvement of melioidosis, if cultures remain positive for six months, surgical removal of the lung abscess with lobectomy is considered.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/8/2015

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