Association of the melioidosis agent burkholderia pseudomallei with water parameters in rural water supplies in Northern Australia

Anthony Draper, Mark Mayo, Glenda Harrington, Danuta Karp, Des Yinfoo, Linda Ward, Asha Haslem, Bart Currie, Mirjam Kaestli

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Abstract

We analyzed water parameters and the occurrence of the melioidosis agent Burkholderia pseudomallei in 47 water bores in Northern Australia. B. pseudomallei was associated with soft, acidic bore water of low salinity but high iron levels. This finding aids in identifying water supplies at risk of contamination with this pathogenic bacterium.

Melioidosis is a severe, emerging disease caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, a hydrophilic soil saprophyte that is endemic in Southeast Asia and northern Australia (3, 16, 17). Melioidosis is the most common cause of fatal community-acquired bacteremic pneumonia in northern Australia (4).
Melioidosis outbreaks causing fatalities among humans and animals have been attributed to contaminated unchlorinated water supplies in northern Australia (5, 8) (B. J. Currie, personal observation). Rural water bores, of which there are 5,000 around Darwin alone, are mostly unchlorinated due to concerns of bore owners about taste, by-products, and maintenance of chlorination. We have analyzed the association of the occurrence of B. pseudomallei with environmental and physicochemical water properties in unchlorinated bore water from rural Darwin in northern Australia. This study is the first report on the habitat of B. pseudomallei in water supplies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5305-5307
Number of pages3
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume76
Issue number15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

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