Biogeography of Burkholderia pseudomallei in the Torres Strait islands of Northern Australia

Anthony Baker, Mark Mayo, Leigh Owens, Graham Burgess, Robert Norton, William McBride, Bart Currie, Jeffrey Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been hypothesized that biogeographical boundaries are a feature of Burkholderia pseudomallei ecology, and they impact the epidemiology of melioidosis on a global scale. This study examined the relatedness of B. pseudomallei sourced from islands in the Torres Strait of Northern Australia to determine if the geography of isolated island communities is a determinant of the organisms' dispersal. Environmental sampling on Badu Island in the Near Western Island cluster recovered a single clone. An additional 32 clinical isolates from the region were sourced. Isolates were characterized using multilocus sequence typing and a multiplex PCR targeting the flagellum gene cluster. Gene cluster analysis determined that 69% of the isolates from the region encoded the ancestral Burkholderia thailandensis-like flagellum and chemotaxis gene cluster, a proportion significantly lower than that reported from mainland Australia and consistent with observations of isolates from southern Papua New Guinea. A goodness-of-fit test indicated that there was geographic localization of sequence types throughout the archipelago, with the exception of Thursday Island, the economic and cultural hub of the region. Sequence types common to mainland Australia and Papua New Guinea were identified. These findings demonstrate for the first time an environmental reservoir for B. pseudomallei in the Torres Strait, and multilocus sequence typing suggests that the organism is not randomly distributed throughout this region and that seawater may provide a barrier to dispersal of the organism. Moreover, these findings support an anthropogenic dispersal hypothesis for the spread of B. pseudomallei throughout this region. Copyright � 2013, American Society for Microbiology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2520-2525
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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