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Melioidosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About melioidosis

Melioidosis also known as ‘Whitmore’s disease’ is a bacterial infection caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, affecting various organs of body resulting in abscess (pus pockets) formation. The offending bacteria is usually found in soil and contaminated, stagnant water.

Melioidosis: Incidence, age and sex

Melioidosis is rarely encountered in the general population and no clear-cut gender bias is observed. It is generally found in certain areas of Africa, South-East Asia and Northern Australia. AIDS patients and intravenous drug users are more susceptible to this bacterial infection.

Signs and symptoms of melioidosis: Diagnosis

The clinical features of melioidosis are variable and depend upon the organ involved. Melioidosis may affect lungs, kidneys, liver, heart and circulatory system. Lung involvement may result in lung abscess or pneumonia and manifest with cough, chest pain abnormal lung sounds. Infection in the circulatory system (septicaemia) signifies gross severity of infection and manifest with fever, chills, pus-forming skin lesions, low blood pressure and increased heart rate. Sometimes, there may be none or minimal symptoms.

Blood culture, urine or sputum examination may lead to isolation and identification of offending bacteria, thus helping in diagnosing the condition. A blood test may show an elevated white blood cell count. Chest x-ray may show cavitating lesions resembling tuberculosis in individuals where lung is afflicted.

Causes and prevention of melioidosis

Melioidosis is caused by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is generally found in contaminated soil, water and paddy fields. It may spread to humans through direct contact with contaminated source, inhalation or even ingestion of contaminated food products. Unfortunately there is no vaccine available to prevent the occurrence of melioidosis.

Melioidosis: Complications

The complications of melioidosis are not commonly encountered in affected individuals. However, longstanding infection may result in the spread of infection to heart, joints and bones causing pericarditis (infection of the membrane lining the heart), septic arthritis and osteomyelitis respectively. Occasionally, potentially fatal complications like kidney failure may also be encountered.

Melioidosis: Treatment

The treatment of melioidosis includes long-term antibiotic medications like Ceftazidime, Meropenem, and Piperacillin which are given intravenously initially. Later, when the condition improves, medications can be given via the oral route. However frequent recurrences may be encountered. The prognosis of melioidosis depends upon the organ involved. For example, septicaemia (infection in blood) carries a bad prognosis with a high mortality rate.