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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Development of Production and Formulation Technologies for Microbial Biopesticides in Conjunction with the Development of Attractants and Repellents for Invasive Insect Pests

Location: Crop Bioprotection Research

Title: Burkholderia pseudomallei: A potential zoonosis in the southeastern United States

Author
item Portacci, Katie
item Rooney, Alejandro - Alex
item Dobos, Robert

Submitted to: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/2/2016
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis and is, therefore, a proposed agent on the United States Department of Agriculture’s National List of Reportable Animal Diseases and classified as a Category B bioterrorism agent by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This report describes the epidemiology of B. pseudomallei in animals and the potential for establishment of the agent in the southeastern United States following an accidental release of this infectious agent and subsequent infection of two Rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) at the Tulane National Primate Research Center (TNPRC) in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana in December of 2014. The results of our study suggest that conditions may be suitable for survival and establishment of B. pseudomallei in the southeastern United States, substantiating its potential as an emerging zoonosis and threat as a potential bioterrorism agent. Recommendations for veterinary practitioners are provided.

Technical Abstract: Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis, is an underreported zoonosis in many countries where environmental conditions may be favorable for B. pseudomallei. This soil saprophyte is most often detected in tropical areas such as Southeast Asia and Northern Australia where the case fatality rate is estimated to be as high as 50% in humans. Diagnosis is difficult due to the lack of pathognomonic signs and the limitations of diagnostic tests. Cases in other animals are sporadically reported and the extent of B. pseudomallei in the environment or global distribution is not well understood. B. pseudomallei is a proposed agent on the United States Department of Agriculture’s National List of Reportable Animal Diseases and classified as a Category B bioterrorism agent by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. B. pseudomallei is also designated as a Tier-1 select agent under the Federal Select Agent Program because it is among “the biological agents and toxins that present the greatest risk of deliberate misuse with significant potential for mass casualties or devastating effect to the economy, critical infrastructure, or public confidence and poses a severe threat to public health and safety.” B. pseudomallei is not known to be present in the United States outside of select agent research laboratories, although it is now considered endemic in Puerto Rico. Moreover, the number of human cases diagnosed in the United States has increased in recent years, and not all cases can be attributed to travel outside of the United States. This report describes the epidemiology of B. pseudomallei in domestic animals and the potential for establishment of the agent in the southeastern United States. Melioidosis is an underreported disease in endemic areas. Veterinarians should be aware of the signs of melioidosis in domestic animals, and procedures for diagnosing and reporting the agent, to minimize the consequences of environmental contamination and endemic establishment.

Last Modified: 09/22/2017
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