Neurologic melioidosis is a serious, potentially fatal form of Burkholderia pseudomallei infection. Recently, we reported that a subset of clinical isolates of B. pseudomallei from Australia have heightened virulence and potential for dissemination to the central nervous system. In this study, we demonstrate that this subset has a B. mallei–like sequence variation of the actin-based motility gene, bimA. Compared with B. pseudomallei isolates having typical bimA alleles, isolates that contain the B. mallei–like variation demonstrate increased persistence in phagocytic cells and increased virulence with rapid systemic dissemination and replication within multiple tissues, including the brain and spinal cord, in an experimental model. These findings highlight the implications of bimA variation on disease progression of B. pseudomallei infection and have considerable clinical and public health implications with respect to the degree of neurotropic threat posed to human health.