A cluster of acute melioidosis cases occurred in a remote, coastal community in tropical Western Australia. Molecular typing of Burkholderia pseudomallei isolates from culture-confirmed cases and suspected environmental sources by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of XbaI chromosomal DNA digests showed that a single PFGE type was responsible for five cases of acute infection in a community of around 300 during a 5 week period. This temporal and geographical clustering of acute melioidosis cases provided a unique opportunity to investigate the environmental factors contributing to this disease. B. pseudomallei isolated from a domestic tap at the home of an asymptomatic seroconverter was indistinguishable by PFGE. Possible contributing environmental factors included an unusually acid communal water supply, unrecordable chlorine levels during the probable exposure period, a nearby earth tremor, and gusting winds during the installation of new water and electricity supplies. The possible role of the potable water supply as a source of B. pseudomallei was investigated further.
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