Pathogenic soil bacterium is influenced by land management practices

January 21, 2009

Researchers from Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, Australia have found that the soil bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which causes the emerging infectious disease melioidosis in humans and animals, is associated with land management changes such as livestock husbandry or residential gardening. The study, published January 20 in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, sheds light on the environmental occurrence of this bacterium in the soil.

B. pseudomallei lives in tropical soil and is endemic in southeast Asia and northern Australia, where it can be a common cause of fatal community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. In predisposed hosts such as those with diabetes, it can also lead to systemic sepsis, with mortality rates over 50 percent.

Through a large survey in the tropical Darwin area of Australia, the study's authors found that the environmental factors describing the soil habitat of B. pseudomallei differed between undisturbed sites and environmentally manipulated areas. At undisturbed sites, B. pseudomallei was primarily found in close proximity to streams and in grass-rich areas, whereas at environmentally disturbed sites, B. pseudomallei was associated with the presence of livestock animals, lower soil pH and irrigation. Highest B. pseudomallei counts were retrieved from paddocks, pens and kennels holding livestock and dogs.

"These findings raise concerns that B. pseudomallei may spread due to the influence of land management changes," said study author Dr Mirjam Kaestli. "This would increase the risk of human and livestock exposure to these potentially deadly bacteria which are transmitted by contact with contaminated soil or surface water through cuts in the skin or inhalation."

In-depth analysis of the influence of anthropogenic factors upon B. pseudomallei and further studies in other endemic areas are needed to confirm the results of this study.

Citation: Kaestli M, Mayo M, Harrington G, Ward L, Watt F, et al. (2009) Landscape Changes Influence the Occurrence of the Melioidosis Bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei in Soil in Northern Australia. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 3(1): e364. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000364, dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000364

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Farmland management changes can boost carbon sequestration rates

Related Stories

Following the footprint of invasive trees

July 9, 2013

In Oregon, western juniper trees are expanding their range, pushing out other plant species, reducing sagebrush habitat and livestock forage, and at times fueling catastrophic wildfires. During some of these conflagrations, ...

Growing more with the same land

April 28, 2015

There are three main reasons why the productivity of existing farmland will need to dramatically increase in the next 40 years.

Recommended for you

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

Quantum Theory May Explain Wishful Thinking

April 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Humans don’t always make the most rational decisions. As studies have shown, even when logic and reasoning point in one direction, sometimes we chose the opposite route, motivated by personal bias or simply ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.