The effect of climate on melioidosis incidence in Townsville, Australia: a dry tropical region

Vibooshini Ganeshalingam, Mirjam Kaestli, Robert E. Norton, Ian Gassiep

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BACKGROUND: Townsville is in the dry tropics in Northern Australia and an endemic region for melioidosis. Melioidosis is an infectious disease caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, a soil dwelling organism. The incidence of melioidosis is associated with high levels of rainfall and has been linked to multiple weather variables in other melioidosis endemic regions such as in Darwin. In contrast to Townsville, Darwin is in the wet-dry tropics in Northern Australia and receives 40% more rainfall. We assessed the relationship between melioidosis incidence and weather conditions in Townsville and compared the patterns to the findings in Darwin and other melioidosis endemic regions. METHOD: Performing a time series analysis from 1996 to 2020, we applied a negative binomial regression model to evaluate the link between the incidence of melioidosis in Townsville and various weather variables. Akaike's information criterion was used to assess the most parsimonious model with best predictive performance. Fourier terms and lagged deviance residuals were included to control long term seasonal trends and temporal autocorrelation. RESULTS: Humidity is the strongest predictor for melioidosis incidence in Townsville. Furthermore, the incidence of melioidosis showed a three-times rise in the Townsville region when >200 mm of rain fell within the fortnight. Prolonged rainfall had more impact than a heavy downpour on the overall melioidosis incident rate. There was no statistically significant increase in incidence with cloud cover in the multivariable model. CONCLUSION: Consistent with other reports, melioidosis incidence can be attributed to humidity and rainfall in Townsville. In contrast to Darwin, there was no strong link between melioidosis cases and cloud cover and nor single large rainfall events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Pages (from-to)33
Number of pages1
JournalEnvironmental Health and Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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