Officials with the Ministry of Health in Sonora are reporting two suspect melioidosis cases in siblings from Huasabas who died, according to a local media account (computer translated).

Samples collected during autopsy revealed the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei.


According to the general director of Health Promotion and Prevention of Diseases of the Ministry of Health in Sonora, Gerardo Alvarez Hernandez, preliminary findings show the organism was found in the necropsy of both children, ages 16 and 12

Although it is very rare to find the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, it is possible to find it in the Sonoran territory; and the deceased siblings from Huasabas could have acquired it when they were swimming in the river, explained the infectologist Jesus Sanchez Colin. Other children who bathed in the Bavispe river have not presented with symptoms of the serious disease.

Burkholderia pseudomallei is a rare bacterium, but we do see it, the cases of melioidosis are extremely rare and these situations are fatal,” he said.

Melioidosis (also known as Whitmore disease and Nightcliff gardener’s disease) is caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei. The disease though somewhat rare has been seen in areas of Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, particularly after heavy rains. In Thailand it is considered a disease of rice farmers.

The organism is saprophytically found in soil and water. People usually get infected by contact with contaminated soil or water through skin wounds, inhalation or rarely through ingestion of contaminated water.

Person to person transmission can occur through contact with blood and body fluids of an infected person.

Depending on how heavy the infection incubation can range from hours to weeks. Infection may show nosymptoms but it can quickly progress to disseminated disease involving skin and a variety of organs.

Pneumonia from B. pseudomallei can be seen either in acute or chronic disease. Chronic pulmonary meloidosis may present itself years after exposure and can mimic tuberculosis.

Fatality rates of melioidosis can reach up to 75 percent even with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Fatalities are particularly greater in those with underlying conditions like diabetes mellitus or renal disease.

People at higher risk of contracting this disease are those with jobs or hobbies that increase their exposure to contaminated soil and water like military, construction, farmers, eco-tourists and other adventure travelers.

Prevention is based on avoiding exposure of cuts and other trauma with soil and water in endemic areas. This is especially important if the person has an underlying disease. The use of boots and gloves are recommended for people whose work involves contact with soil and water, like farmers.