Pathogenic soil bacterium is influenced by land management practices

Jan 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: UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting on Ebola

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fecal transplants let packrats eat poison

Jul 21, 2014

Woodrats lost their ability to eat toxic creosote bushes after antibiotics killed their gut microbes. Woodrats that never ate the plants were able to do so after receiving fecal transplants with microbes ...

Following the footprint of invasive trees

Jul 09, 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 ...

Study shows bacteria combat dangerous gas leaks

Apr 28, 2014

Bacteria could mop up naturally-occurring and man-made leaks of natural gases before they are released into the atmosphere and cause global warming - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Recommended for you

Sierra Leone: WHO too slow to help doc with Ebola

6 hours ago

Sierra Leone accused the World Health Organization on Monday of being "sluggish" in facilitating an evacuation of a doctor who died from Ebola before she could be sent out of the country for medical care.

Dutch doctors feared to have Ebola leave hospital

6 hours ago

Two Dutch doctors flown home from west Africa after fears they might have been contaminated with the killer Ebola virus have left hospital "in good health," their employer, the Lion Heart Medical Centre, said Monday.

Strategic self-sabotage? MRSA inhibits its own growth

11 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have uncovered a bacterial mystery. Against all logic, the most predominant strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in North American produces an enzyme ...

US works to step up Ebola aid, but is it enough?

13 hours ago

The American strategy on Ebola is two-pronged: Step up desperately needed aid to West Africa and, in an unusual step, train U.S. doctors and nurses for volunteer duty in the outbreak zone. At home, the goal ...

User comments : 0