Monday, August 1, 2022

UMC Experts Explain Rare Bacterium found on Mississippi Gulf Coast

 Ruth Cummins authored the following press release for UMC. 

A rare bacterium discovered on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is here to stay. It can’t be killed.

But to become infected from Burkholderia pseudomallei, the uncommon organism that causes the disease melioidosis, the conditions must be right, University of Mississippi Medical Center experts say.

“Infections in very general terms are dependent on the route of exposure, the length of time of exposure, and the amount of exposure,” said Dr. Larry McDaniel, a professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and the Center for Immunology and Microbial Research. “It needs to have the right situation.”

That includes location. The Mississippi State Department of Health, in a joint investigation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identified the bacterium in soil samples after two Gulf Coast residents were sickened with melioidosis two years apart. The soil samples that tested positive for the bacterium were taken from the grounds at both people’s homes, and it’s believed the bacterium had been there since at least 2020.

The bacterium is found in dirt and water, “and sometimes on plants,” McDaniel said. You can become infected by inhaling contaminated soil, dust or water droplets, and it can attach to the coats of animals, who also can be infected.

It’s largely associated with tropical and sub-tropical locales such as India, Southeast Asia, northern Australia or Central or South America. “Transmission from human to human is highly unlikely unless there is prolonged close contact with someone infected,” McDaniel said.

 Most people won’t get infected ��� the bacterium enters the body through cuts and broken skin - and “even if you do, it will probably be a relatively mild infection,” McDaniel said. The incubation period is one to 21 days.

People with chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney or lung disease, or excessive alcohol use are at risk for severe illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, joint pain and headache. The infection can sometimes lead to pneumonia and sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection.

That group should take specific precautions that include avoiding contact with soil or muddy water, or water that gathers following rain or a storm, especially if you have cuts or broken skin. Wear waterproof gloves when gardening or working with soil in addition to waterproof boots. Forget the boots, and your feet and lower legs can become badly infected.

“People should be cautious about whatever they are doing when they dig in the dirt, or do anything that could disturb the organism,” McDaniel said.

“The most important step is to have a high level of suspicion. The quicker someone is diagnosed with melioidosis, the lower the chance of a worse outcome,” said Dr. Tulip Jhaveri, an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases. And, “patients can have a rapid course, including fever, chills, productive cough and respiratory distress. Diagnosis can be tricky because the infection can mimic common respiratory viral or other bacterial infections,” he said.

One example is tuberculosis, a potentially serious infection that affects the lungs.

“Melioidosis can also be chronic,” he said. “In 9 percent of cases, it can easily masquerade as tuberculosis. In both conditions, patients present with slowly progressive cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and weight loss. The infection can involve other sites including kidneys, brain, skin, bone and joints.

“This bacterium usually grows well in standard sputum, blood, urine or pus cultures,”Jhaveri said. “However, it may be misidentified as a different bacterium. If you suspect a patient to have this disease, the lab should be notified immediately so that they can take necessary precautions to improve the chances of accurate identification, as well as for the safety of lab personnel. This bacterium can be released into the air during processing.”

In serious cases, “it generally causes a pneumonia,” said Dr. Ben Brock, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases. “We wouldn’t normally suspect melioidosis in a patient in Mississippi who presents with pneumonia, but if we grow it in a culture, the antibiotic would be changed to target that specific germ.”

But don’t forget, he said, that “there are lots of other causes of pneumonia that are really what we need to focus our concerns on, and COVID is at the top of the list.”

Someone with a severe infection needs IV antibiotics for at least two weeks, and depending on the response to therapy, can go up to eight weeks followed by months of oral antibiotics to prevent relapse, Jhaveri said. Occasionally, a patient with a mild infection can be treated with oral antibiotics, he said.

The discovery of the same rare bacterium in this country is uncommon, but there are recent cases. The CDC in October 2021 identified Burkholderia pseudomallei in an aromatherapy spray in the home of a Georgia resident who became ill with melioidosis a few months earlier. The spray was manufactured in India. All told, four people became infected over a four-state area, and two of them died.

It’s unknown how the bacterium made its way to the Gulf Coast, but Jhaveri believes “climate change had something to do with it.” Increasing numbers of severe storms leads to warmer temperatures, wet soil and contaminated water, Jhaveri and Brock said.

“That in turn becomes a perfect environment for this bacterium to stir up and evolve,” Jhaveri said.

“Bacteria reproduce and spread,” McDaniel said. “When microbes get into a favorable environment, they can grow to high numbers. Given the warming conditions now, it leads to its propagation.

“I’d presume that the highest numbers of organisms would be in the warmer months. There’s likely to be fewer in the colder months, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t take precautions.”

To say that the organism can travel from one location on the Gulf Coast to another would be speculation, McDaniel said. “It has to have the right conditions to propagate: humidity, water, moisture. Animals that go into an area with the bacterium could pick up the organism on their coat and carry it to another location.

“The organism is here, and you’re not going to get rid of it,” McDaniel said. “You can’t spray the soil and make it go away. You should use common sense to protect yourself and others.”



Anonymous said...

Fire Ants.
New Bacteria.
Nothing good comes from overseas!

GTFO said...

"It’s unknown how the bacterium made its way to the Gulf Coast, but Jhaveri believes “climate change had something to do with it.” Increasing numbers of severe storms leads to warmer temperatures, wet soil and contaminated water, Jhaveri and Brock said."

No wonder BCBS dumped this outfit.

Anonymous said...

UMC experts re named the low life bacteria— bluecrossium scummus

The Bacteria, unamused , claims defamation.

Anonymous said...

So this is a different bacteria than fibro which is found in stagnant tidal waters of the gulf coast during the summer that has been around for ages?

Anonymous said...

10:16 I actually laughed out loud. That is funny!

Anonymous said...

"Ruth Cummins authored the following press release for UMC.

A rare bacterium discovered on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is here to stay. It can’t be killed."

As reluctant as I am to write this, Ruth Cummins is wrong. B.(-urkholderia) pseudomallei can be killed ex vivo in several ways, including that current Jackson fav, boiling water. It will be dead well before 100C/212F. That doesn't mean there is no worry with this. Melioidosis (the disease one could contract) isn't a cold, it is a serious illness and while rare it can be fatal. However, incorrect information is not the way to start a public health press release. And in a probably useless attempt to help short-circuit the inevitable, don't be an idiot and compare a non-med's error in this one press release to a bunch of COVID conspiracy horseshit you don't understand either.

Anonymous said...

Read that article once and you learn nothing. Read it twice and you've wasted twice as much time. What the hell is the value of an article that tells us 'There is bad stuff out there in the environment. Stay away from the environment"?

But if you must go into the environment, wear boots and rubber gloves.

One day we will learn there are better ways to wipe us all out than with aeroplanes.

Anonymous said...


anonymous said...

I suspect you are referring to vibrio vulnificus, a bacteria that can cause severe problems, particularly in those with liver disease or compromised immunity.
This is indeed a new and different bacteria.

Anonymous said...

I heard China and Hillary are to blame and they must’ve gotten UMC in on it to provide cover, hopefully the Republicans can investigate any get to the bottom of it.

Anonymous said...

"It is unknown how the bacterium made its way to the Gulf Coast, but . . . climate change had something to do with it." That's really all I needed to read to know this whole article is BS and, yes 11:22, it does sound like just another sortie in the whole "disease is gonna kill us all" conspiracy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and we'll hold them accountable

Anonymous said...

JIM! There is an unknown bacterium affecting the planet’s sub-strata! We’ve got to beam back to the ship and run some tests in the lab!

Anonymous said...

11:22 are you suggesting we dunk our feet in boiling water? Dump pots of boiling water in yards?

anonymous said...

OMG, 10:16 that was hilarious!!! I laughed out loud too.

Anonymous said...

I left the building with the other poster when climate change was brought into the discussion. Everything new, which isn't really new, isn't caused by climate change.

Attention, we live in a dangerous world. It has been dangerous since humans arrived on the planet. I recommend, that people use the boxing advice giving to all fighters when entering the ring, protect yourself at all times.

Give me a break said...

I only hope my plumber and yard man don't read this as they will certainly adjust their "rates" accordingly. My profession requires my hands to be in the dirt on a daily basis. UMMC was recently concerned that the lymph nodes in my chest appeared to be enlarged via CT scans with and without contrast. Multiple tests were run on my blood work. All the typical culprits, including tuberculosis were ruled out. In the end I was told "it's a result of being in contact with decaying wood and soil, and probably 90% of Mississippians have similar symptoms".

My Dad and his siblings were children of the Great Depression growing up on a farm in South Mississippi. They all worked in the dirt. Dad lived to be 98, his sister 99 and his brother 101.

Wear your mask and booties, don't go outside, coil up on your couch and hope you don't die of starvation before the door dash dude gets to you.

Global warming. Pffffftttttt.

Anonymous said...

"11:22 are you suggesting we dunk our feet in boiling water? Dump pots of boiling water in yards?"

Well, going and soaking your head might be in order. This bacteria isn't as easily deactivated-killed as some but it isn't impervious to everything. I'm not an expert on the topic but a quick glance at the literature indicates that "quats" (quaternary ammoniums, common and readily-available disinfectants), bleach solutions (like a couple of ounces of Clorox in a quart of water), PineSol, and a couple of commercial disinfectants will do the job on many surfaces.

But the real point is that while public health officials should be vigilant for dangers and very forthcoming with the public about them, they should also carefully guard against hyperbole and misstatements. Had that happened with SARS-CoV-2 and COVID, which was and is a serious threat to the entire population, a lot of the pandemic could have been avoided. Coral snakes are in MS, a bite needs treatment and could be fatal, but a bite is so rare that it certainly isn't a public health problem or emergency, much less a crisis. Two cases of melioidosis in 2 years due to the environmental presence of this bacteria is noteworthy and should be carefully monitored. Doctors need to be aware of its new localized presence. It this point that the average member of the public needs to, or can, do anything to safeguard themselves beyond using common sense practices (OK, so many won't anyway). Those in very high risk categories should already be taking precautions for the myriad other contagions around. And it can be killed, so why start the damned thing out with misinformation.

Anonymous said...

Politicians saw how easy it is to control the pheasants by telling them some disease is going to kill them and the politicians are the only thing you can count on to save you. We will continue to have some disease pop up before every election.

Anonymous said...

For all you science and biology experts opining above, get this:

Bacterium is singular.

Bacteria is plural.

At 10:51 - Unless you clip their wings, it's virtually impossible to control pheasants.

Anonymous said...

"For all you science and biology experts opining above, get this:

Bacterium is singular.

Bacteria is plural."

True but incomplete. Bacterium/bacteria is Latin, but conversational lay English often uses "bacteria" as the singular and plural. Moreover, the thing under discussion, Burkholderia pseudomallei, is a bacterium. However, more than one B. pseudomallei are bacteria. A single B. pseudomallei did not cause both reported cases of melioidosis, nor was a single B. pseudomallei found, and then released, only to be found again at (repeatedly) at multiple locations.

For example, "A Tatertotium was found gorging on pies (pl.) at the Neshoba County Fair and a Tatertotium was later found gorging on pies (pl.) at the Mississippi governor's mansion. Officials are confident it is not an infestation of Tatertotia." In other words, in those cases it was a single Tatertotium, not two Tatertotia (thank sweet Mary) gorging on pies but pie-gorgings are typical Tatertotia. But in the former case, officials found several bacteria (of the B. pseudomallei bacterium) at multiple locations.

(Oh, come on, it's a Latin joke - it'll raise the tone).

TL/DR: Don't be a fucking pedant.

Anonymous said...

1:42 - What happens to be popular conversationally has not one whit to do with what's proper.

You probably also find is acceptable to refer to yourself as an alumni rather than an alumnus. Seek comfort in your ignorance. It's there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

2:35 wrote, "1:42 - What happens to be popular conversationally has not one whit to do with what's proper."

You misused - in the original meanings - more than one word in that single sentence, but since your usage has become acceptable over time I'll not bust your chops over it here.

"You probably also find is acceptable to refer to yourself as an alumni rather than an alumnus. Seek comfort in your ignorance. It's there somewhere."

Only if we speak to commoners if we are amused by their illiterate pedantry [imagine Terry Jones' voice and a Terry Gilliam animation of a hedgehog dressed as Queen Victoria].

Naw, truth be told, I rarely if ever find it necessary to bring up such things. After all, you may well be an alumnus of an actual college (or Old Miss) but it didn't seem to do you much good. The purpose for informal writing and speaking is to communicate and "proper" changes even if assholes don't. The fact remains that the only arguably "incorrect" usages of singular v plural were a couple of one-liners and a couple of clearly lay usages, none of which were dependent upon Latin suffixes to fully communicate the intended meanings. You understood what was meant but you aren't trying to educate, you are trying to pompously humiliate. Put another way, you're an asshole doing what assholes do/

TL/DR: Being a pedant is silly. Attempting to be one but being incorrect in the pedantry is amusing. So do carry on.

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