Rare, dangerous bacterium found in US soil: What you need to know

Vivek Mishra
Vivek MishraJul 29, 2022 | 12:21

Rare, dangerous bacterium found in US soil: What you need to know

The bacteria, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions. (Photo: Getty Images)

US health officials issued a health advisory after they found a rare but dangerous bacterium in Mississippi.

The bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, can cause a disease called melioidosis, which can cause fever, joint pain, and pneumonia.

There are about 12 cases in the US per year on average, mostly related to travel to tropical and subtropical regions, where the bacterium is endemic, reported AFP.

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) announced the discovery of the bacterium, identified in the environment in the US for the first time.

How the bacteria was discovered: The investigation was conducted because two cases of melioidosis in the same areas two years apart. Soil samples collected around the patients' homes tested positive for the bacterium.

The bacteria: Burkholderia pseudomallei is a rod-shaped, soil-dwelling bacterium endemic in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, particularly in Thailand and northern Australia. It infects humans and other animals, most commonly livestock.

Melioidosis symptoms: Most healthy people who come into contact with burkholderia pseudomallei never develop melioidosis. Individuals who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease may be at risk of severe illness. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, and headache. Infection can lead to pneumonia and blood infections (sepsis).

How to avoid it: Those who are in the close proximity of the bacterium should:

  • Avoid contact with soil or muddy water, especially after heavy rains.
  • Protect open wounds with waterproof dressing.
  • Wear waterproof boots when gardening, doing yard work or agricultural work.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands when working directly with soil.

Health advisory: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has issued a health advisory to alert clinicians and public health officials throughout the country. They have been asked to consider melioidosis in patients who have symptoms of the disease, as it is now considered to be locally endemic in areas of the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi.

Last updated: July 29, 2022 | 12:53
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