ISSN 2398-2942      

Burkholderia pseudomallei


Vetstream Ltd

Peter Irwin

Synonym(s): Pseudomonas pseudomallei




  • Phylum: Proteobacteria.
  • Order: Burkholderiales.
  • Family: Burkholderiaceae.
  • Genus: Burkholderia.
  • Species: pseudomallei.


  • Previously known as Pseudomonas pseudomallei, Malleomyces pseudomallei, Loefflerella pseudomallei, Pfeiferella pseudomallei.
  • Burkholderia: named after W H Burkholder, an American bacteriologist who discovered the etiological agent of sour skin disease in onions.

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Clinical Effects



  • Saprophyte that is found in soils and in standing water in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.


  • B. pseudomallei generally has a low propensity to cause disease in immunocompetent, healthy individuals. Severe disease is mostly reported in immunocompromised patients.
  • B. pseudomallei is infrequently reported in dogs, possibly due to a low clinical awareness.
  • Potential routes of infection are:
    • Cutaneous inoculation through wounds contaminated with soil or water, or via bites of arthropods.
    • Inhalation of contaminated dust and aerosols.
    • Ingestion of contaminated soil, water, milk.
  • The incubation period is between 3-6 days.
  • Long periods (years) of subclinical (dormant) infections have been described in humans.
  • Cases of melioidosis have been reported in dogs traveled from endemic areas.

Pathological effects

  • B. pseudomallei is a facultative intracellular organism.
  • Various types of infection, including:
    • Mild, or inapparent infections.
    • Localized, cutaneous ulcers.
    • Abscess and granuloma formation in the subcutis and internal organs.
    • Pneumonia and pulmonary abscessation.
    • Septicemia.
    • Encephalomyelitis.
  • Generalized clinical signs of melioidosis in dogs include:
    • Fever.
    • Lethargy, malaise and anorexia.
    • Pale mucous membranes.
    • Purulent discharge from cutaneous lesions and wounds.
    • Multiple subcutaneous abscesses.
    • Testicular and scrotal swelling and pain.
    • Myalgia.


Control via animal

  • Surgical debridement and drainage of skin abscesses (for precautions see Isolation).

Control via chemotherapies

  • Treatment of melioidosis may be prolonged and is often unsuccessful.
  • B. pseudomallei is reported to be susceptible in vitro to the following antibiotics:
  • The antibiotic of choice in humans is ceftazidime Ceftazidime, often used in combination with meropenem or potentiated sulphonamides.
  • Robust evidence for clinical efficacy and choice of antimicrobials in dogs in not available.
  • B. pseudomallei is generally resistant to penicillin G, aminopenicillins, early generation cephalosporins, gentamicin and other aminoglycosides, macrolides, and rifampicin.

Control via environment

  • Reduction of exposure to organisms in endemic areas is not really feasible since the organism is widespread in the environment.
  • There is often a spike in human cases following severe flooding, strong winds and monsoonal conditions, so minimizing outdoor activities during these times, if possible, would seem prudent.
  • Burkholderia pseudomallei is susceptible to various disinfectants, eg:
    • Benzalkonium chloride Benzalkonium chloride.
    • Iodine.
    • Mercuric chloride.
    • Potassium permanganate.
    • 1% sodium hypochlorite.
    • 70% ethanol.
    • 2% glutaraldehyde.
  • B. pseudomallei is effectively killed by commercial disinfectants, Perasafe® and Virkon®.


  • There is no vaccine available.

Other countermeasures

  • Euthanasia Euthanasia should be considered in seriously ill dogs.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Khrongsee P, Lueangthuwapranit C, Ingkasri T, Sretrirutchai S, Kaewrakmuk J, Saechan V, Tuanyok A (2019) Successful Treatments and Management of A Case of Canine Melioidosis. Vet Sci 23,6(4), 76 Full Article.
  • Ryan C W, Bishop K, Blaney D D, Britton SJ, Cantone F, Egan C, Elrod M G, Frye C W, Maxted A M, Perkins G (2018) Public health response to an imported case of canine melioidosis. Zoonoses Public Health 65(4), 420-424 PubMed.
  • Peacock S J, Schweizer H P, Dance D A B, Smith T L, Gee J E, Wuthiekanun V et al (2008) Management of accidental laboratory exposure to Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei Emerging Infectious Diseases 14(7), e2 1080-6059 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • O’Brien C R, Malik R (2012) Miscellaneous bacterial infections. In: Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat, Greene CE (editor) Elsevier 4th edn, ISBN: 978-1-4160-6130-4. pp 465-469.

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