The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported the emergence of a deadly bacteria on the US Gulf Coast, NY Post reported. This bacterium, known as Burkholderia pseudomallei, has a global fatality rate of approximately 50 percent.
CDC confirms three cases of deadly bacteria with a 50% fatality rate declared endemic to US Gulf Coast
The CDC has now classified the bacterium as endemic in the region, signifying its sustained presence and potential impact. In line with this, the organization has confirmed three cases of infection caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, which, if left untreated, can lead to the potentially lethal condition called melioidosis.
“It is an environmental organism that lives naturally in the soil, and typically freshwater in certain areas around the world. Mostly in subtropical and tropical climates,” Julia Petras, an epidemic intelligence service officer with CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told HealthDay News.
In January, the latest case of Burkholderia pseudomallei infection was reported in Mississippi, according to the report. This follows the confirmation of two previous cases in the same county, one in July 2020 and another in May 2020.
However, it is worth noting that a majority of individuals infected with the bacteria do not display symptoms and naturally develop antibodies against it.
As a result, it is highly probable that a larger number of people have been infected but remain undiagnosed. Fortunately, all three patients from Mississippi who contracted the infection have successfully recovered.
Understanding how the bacteria spreads and its impact on high-risk individuals
“This is one of those diseases that is also called the great mimicker because it can look like a lot of different things,” Petras further said. “It’s greatly under-reported and under-diagnosed and under-recognized — we often like to say that it’s been the neglected, neglected tropical disease.”
The primary modes of infection for the bacteria are typically through open wounds or inhalation of the germs during intense storms. Individuals who have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, kidney problems, or liver issues are particularly vulnerable and face the highest risk of infection.
“Excessive alcohol use is also a known risk factor, and binge drinking has actually been associated with cases as well from endemic areas,” Petras said. As per the CDC, an endemic is “a constant amount of that specific disease present in a geographic location, like a state or country.”
To date, the transmission of the bacteria from person to person has been extremely rare, with only two documented cases reported worldwide.