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: Philippines boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ranchers benefit from long-term grazing data

9 hours ago

Scientists studying changes in the Earth's surface rely on 40 years of Landsat satellite imaging, but South Dakota ranchers making decisions about grazing their livestock can benefit from 70 years of data ...

Recommended for you

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

18 hours ago

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

19 hours ago

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

22 hours ago

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

23 hours ago

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.