Distribution of Burkholderia pseudomallei in Northern Australia, a land of diversity

Evan McRobb, Mirjam Kaestli, Erin Price, Derek Sarovich, Mark Mayo, Jeffrey Warner, Brian Spratt, Bart Currie

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Burkholderia pseudomallei is a Gram-negative soil bacillus that is the etiological agent of melioidosis and a biothreat agent. Little is known about the biogeography of this bacterium in Australia, despite its hyperendemicity in the northern region of this continent. The population structure of 953 Australian B. pseudomallei strains representing 779 and 174 isolates of clinical and environmental origins, respectively, was analyzed using multilocus sequence typing (MLST). Bayesian population structure and network SplitsTree analyses were performed on concatenated MLST loci, and sequence type (ST) diversity and evenness were examined using Simpson's and Pielou's indices and a multivariate dissimilarity matrix. Bayesian analysis found two B. pseudomallei populations in Australia that were geographically distinct; isolates from the Northern Territory were grouped mainly into the first population, whereas the majority of isolates from Queensland were grouped in a second population. Differences in ST evenness were observed between sampling areas, confirming that B. pseudomallei is widespread and established across northern Australia, with a large number of fragmented habitats. ST analysis showed that B. pseudomallei populations diversified as the sampling area increased. This observation was in contrast to smaller sampling areas where a few STs predominated, suggesting that B. pseudomallei populations are ecologically established and not frequently dispersed. Interestingly, there was no identifiable ST bias between clinical and environmental isolates, suggesting the potential for all culturable B. pseudomallei isolates to cause disease. Our findings have important implications for understanding the ecology of B. pseudomallei in Australia and for potential source attribution of this bacterium in the event of unexpected cases of melioidosis. � 2014, American Society for Microbiology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3463-3468
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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