Epidemiology and Infection

Original Papers

The epidemiology of melioidosis in the Balimo region of Papua New Guinea

J. M. WARNERa1 c1, D. B. PELOWAa2, D. GALa3, G. RAIa1, M. MAYOa3, B. J. CURRIEa3, B. GOVANa1, L. F. SKERRATTa1 and R. G. HIRSTa1

a1 Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, James Cook University Townsville, Australia

a2 Balimo Health Centre, Balimo, Western Province Papua New Guinea

a3 Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University Darwin, Australia


The distribution of Burkholderia pseudomallei was determined in soil collected from a rural district in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where melioidosis had recently been described, predominately affecting children. In 274 samples, 2·6% tested culture-positive for B. pseudomallei. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis using SpeI digests and rapid polymorphic DNA PCR with five primers demonstrated a single clone amongst clinical isolates and isolates cultured from the environment that was commonly used by children from whom the clinical isolates were derived. We concluded that individuals in this region most probably acquired the organism through close contact with the environment at these sites. Burkholderia thailandensis, a closely related Burkholderia sp. was isolated from 5·5% of samples tested, an observation similar to that of melioidosis-endemic areas in Thailand. This is the first report of an environmental reservoir for melioidosis in PNG and confirms the Balimo district in PNG as melioidosis endemic.

(Accepted July 24 2007)

(Online publication August 22 2007)


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr J. M Warner, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences James Cook University, Townsville, Australia 4811. (Email: Jeffrey.Warner@jcu.edu.au)