warns of deadly bacteria


At least two Americans were hospitalized for a rare and potentially deadly strain of bacteria

US health officials are sounding the alarm over a dangerous strain of bacteria recently discovered for the first time in the country, warning it could cause serious illness after several people were sickened by the bug.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated it has noticed the Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria “first in the environment in the continental United States” in a recent health warning, noting that the strain is responsible for the rare disease melioidosis — also known as Whitmore’s disease.

the bacteria “was identified through environmental sampling of soil and water in the Gulf Coast region of southern Mississippi during a study of two cases of human melioidosis,” the agency went on to add that while it had already detected one case of the disease in July 2020, it only confirmed the bacteria’s local presence last month.

Although their cases were years apart, genomic sequencing revealed that the two had been melioidosis patients “infected by the same new strain from the western hemisphere,” which was “different from previous known isolates”, according to the CDA. Both ended up in hospital with sepsis and pneumonia, but recovered after antibiotic treatments.

The bacterium is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates around the world, including Southeast Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Australia. While it can cause serious illness, the CDC noted that the risk of person-to-person transmission is: “considered extremely low because there are few documented cases.”

A study conducted in 2016 by researchers at the University of Oxford estimated that the pathogen has killed up to 89,000 people in the past year, and suggested it may be present in up to 79 countries, including 34 that had not previously discovered it. At the time, the newspaper reported a “complete absence” of the bacteria in the US.

In late 2014, the CDC confirmed that the bacteria had leaked from one of its own labs in Louisiana after multiple study animals contracted melioidosis, at least four of which died. The CDC later discontinued the lab’s work on B. pseudomallei, saying it found serious problems with its biosafety procedures.

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