Epidemiology and Infection

Preliminary report on the northern Australian melioidosis environmental surveillance project

T. J. J. INGLIS a1c1, N. F. FOSTER a2, D. GAL a3, K. POWELL a4, M. MAYO a3, R. NORTON a5 and B. J. CURRIE a3a6
a1 Western Australian Centre for Pathology and Medical Research (PathCentre), Western Australia, Australia
a2 Department of Microbiology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
a3 Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
a4 School of Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
a5 QHPS, Townsville Hospital, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
a6 Northern Territory Clinical School, Flinders University, Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory, Australia

Article author query
inglis tj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
foster nf   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gal d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
powell k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mayo m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
norton r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
currie bj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


An environmental surveillance programme was developed to determine whether water supplies could be a source of Burkholderia pseudomallei as noted during previous melioidosis outbreak investigations. Water supplies to communities in the three northern Australian jurisdictions (Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland) were sampled periodically during 2001 and 2002. Water and soil samples were collected from communities known to have had recent culture-positive melioidosis cases and nearby communities where no cases had been diagnosed. Clinical isolates of B. pseudomallei obtained from northern Australian patients during 2001 and 2002 were compared with the environmental B. pseudomallei isolates by ribotyping and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. B. pseudomallei was isolated from 11 distinct locations, all in the Northern Territory, seven of which were associated with culture-positive melioidosis cases (>1 case at three locations). Water was implicated as a possible environmental source of melioidosis in six locations. A variety of free-living amoebae including Acanthamoeba and Hartmannella spp. that are potential hosts to B. pseudomallei were recovered from environmental specimens. Culturable B. pseudomallei was not found to be widely dispersed in the environments sampled.

(Accepted May 10 2004)

c1 Dr T. J. J. Inglis, Division of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Western Australian Centre for Pathology & Medical Research (PathCentre), Locked Bag 2009, Nedlands, WA 6909, Australia. (Email: tim.inglis@health.wa.gov.au)