Melioidosis deadly disease is spreading beyond Northern Australia and Southeast Asia. The disease is difficult to diagnose and it might already be present in 79 countries among which 34 have never reported its presence before.
The danger has been identified by a research team conducted by scientists from Oxford University in partnership with the University of Washington in Seattle and Mahidol University.
According to the study published on January 11 in Nature Microbiology journal melioidosis infected about 165,000 in 2015, killing over half of them. That is almost the same with the number of deaths caused by measles – 95,000 and more than leptospirosis which killed about 50,000 people or dengue which killed approximately 12,500.
The authors of the study urge authorities to take measures as the infectious disease is expected to spread even further this year as a result of the increasing international travel which brings the pathogen in new areas.
Melioidosis is contracted through inhalation, skin contact or by drinking contaminated water. Because it mimics other diseases the infection is difficult to diagnose.
About 50 percent of the infected people are killed by the disease given the fact that the bacteria is resistant to a wide range of antibiotics so the treatment has to be adequate and last for an extended period of up to 20 weeks.
Even in the eventuality of appropriate treatment the disease has an increased rate of relapse. If the treatment start too late or the drugs taken are not powerful enough to fight the infection, the death rates exceed 70 percent.
People at the most risk of contacting the infection are those with weak immune system such as very young children and elderly but also diabetics, people with chronic diseases of the liver, kidney and lung, those with bone marrow affections and alcoholics.
But not only sick people are at risk. People who are regularly exposed to water and soil such as rice farmers are at a very high risk of contracting the infection. So are the northern Australian aboriginal populations where the bacterium started.
The disease is currently believed to be spread among the whole Southern hemisphere with great chances of travelling north during the following years.
Melioidosis is called “the great mimicker” as its main symptoms are mimicking other diseases. These are fever, confusion, shortness of breath and sometimes skin abscesses or pustules. The bacteria is finally causing septicemia, pneumonia or abscesses in organs such as spleen and liver but also in the prostate gland in men or in the lymph nodes and salivary glands in children.
Image source: freeimages