Melioidosis in Far North Queensland is not correlated with severe weather events

James D Stewart, Simon Smith and Josh Hanson
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (9): 394. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.01332

Melioidosis is an opportunistic tropical infection caused by the environmental bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. In northern Australia, most patients present with the disease during the wet season, when heavy rainfall increases the B. pseudomallei load in the top soil.1 An increase in the number of pneumonic presentations has been noted after cyclones and tropical storms;2 it has been proposed that heavy rainfall during severe weather events increases the environmental load of B. pseudomallei, while the associated high winds aerosolise the organism, increasing the risk of inhalation and, in susceptible hosts, disease.1 As the frequency of severe weather events is predicted to increase as a result of global climate change, some authors have warned of a potential rise in the burden of melioidosis.3

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  • James D Stewart1
  • Simon Smith2
  • Josh Hanson2,3

  • 1 Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 Cairns Hospital, Cairns, QLD
  • 3 Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Cheng AC, Currie BJ. Melioidosis: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management. Clin Microbiol Rev 2005; 18: 383-416.
  • 2. Cheng AC, Jacups SP, Gal D, et al. Extreme weather events and environmental contamination are associated with case-clusters of melioidosis in the Northern Territory of Australia. Int J Epidemiol 2006; 35: 323-329.
  • 3. Kaestli M, Grist EP, Ward L, et al. The association of melioidosis with climatic factors in Darwin, Australia: a 23-year time-series analysis. J Infect 2016; 72: 687-697.
  • 4. Faa AG, Holt PJ. Melioidosis in the Torres Strait islands of far North Queensland. Commun Dis Intell Q Rep 2002; 26: 279-283.
  • 5. Hantrakun V, Rongkard P, Oyuchua M, et al. Soil nutrient depletion is associated with the presence of Burkholderia pseudomallei. Appl Environ Microbiol 2016; 82: 7086-7092.


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