9 March 2012
Melioidosis is being spread through contaminated groundwater in north Queensland, researchers have shown for the first time.
The bacterium causing the disease, Burkholderia pseudomallei, has been found in run-off and stormwater in Townsville, which may explain why the infection often peaks during the wet season and after periods of extreme weather, the researchers from James Cook University said.
Mark Mayo, melioidosis project manager at the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, said that with the bacterium also being disocovered in run-off water and soil in the Northern Territory, people living throughout the tropical north should take measures to reduce their risk.
"This should serve as a public health message to make sure people ... take precautions to avoid infection such as wearing covered footwear ... in wet areas and cleaning any sores and cuts exposed to the environment," he said.
In Townsville, the mortality rate from melioiodosis has been reported at about 20 per cent, James Cook University associate professor of microbiology, Jeff Warner said.
The James Cook University research, published late last year, led the authors to call last week for more public awareness and appropriate urban drainage management strategies in endemic regions where seasonal groundwater seeps were common.
Last Reviewed: 09 March 2012