Bukholderia mallei infection: what is it and what symptoms characterise it?

The bacteria that cause Bukholderia mallei (or glanders) infection are transmitted to humans through contact with tissues or body fluids of infected animals

The bacteria enter the body through cuts or abrasions on the skin and through contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose.

Rare cases of airborne infection have also been reported.

Symptoms and diseases associated with Bukholderia mallei infection?

Symptoms of Bukholderia mallei (or glanders) infection can be very different.

The most common are:

  • fever with chills and sweating
  • muscle pain
  • chest pain
  • muscle stiffness
  • headaches
  • nasal discharge
  • sensitivity to light (sometimes with excessive tearing of the eyes)

What is Bukholderia mallei infection?

Burkholederia mallei is a gram-negative bacterium with an aerobic metabolism.

It is the bacterium that causes glanders, an infectious disease that mainly affects horses and can be transmitted to humans (although it is extremely rare in humans).

It also affects donkeys and mules and can be naturally contracted by other mammals such as goats, dogs and cats.

Burkholederia mallei infection is diagnosed in the laboratory by isolating the bacterium from blood, skin, sputum or urine samples.

No serological tests are currently available.

Care and treatment of Bukholderia mallei infection

As human cases of glanders are rare, there is limited information on available antibiotic treatments and their eventual outcome in humans.

Sulfadiazine-based drugs appear to be effective in both animals and humans.

In addition, the glanders bacterium is usually susceptible to:

  • tetracyclines
  • ciprofloxacin
  • streptomycin
  • novobiocin
  • gentamicin
  • ceftazidime
  • sulphonamides

There is currently no vaccine available against glanders.

In countries where glanders is widespread, prevention of the disease in humans involves identification and elimination of the infection in the animal population.

In health care settings transmission can be avoided by using contact precautions with infected patients.

The information given is general advice and in no way replaces medical advice.

If you feel unwell you should seek medical advice or go to the emergency room.

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