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Melioidosis in Africa: Time to Uncover the True Disease Load

Institute of Hygiene, Microbiology and Environmental Medicine, Medical University of Graz, 8036 Graz, Austria
Friedrich Loeffler Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Medicine of Greifswald, KöR, 17475 Greifswald, Germany
Departement UFR/Science de la Santé, Université d’Ouagadougou, BP 7021, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Centre Muraz, 01 BP 390 Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Jimma Road, ALERT Compound, P.O. Box 1005 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Laboratoire Central Vétérinaire de Bingerville, LANADA, P.O. Box 206 Bingerville, Cote D’Ivoire
Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS), 01 BP 1303 Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire
Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, University of Antananarivo, B.P. 175 Antananarivo, Madagascar
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Université de Lubumbashi, 1825 Lubumbashi, Republic of the Congo
Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
Department of Infectious Hazard Management, World Health Organization, Geneva 27, Switzerland
College of Health Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, 00233 Kumasi, Ghana
Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research, 00233 Kumasi, Ghana
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2018, 3(2), 62;
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 31 May 2018 / Accepted: 1 June 2018 / Published: 10 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Burden and Challenges of Melioidosis)
PDF [283 KB, uploaded 15 June 2018]


Melioidosis is an often fatal infectious disease with a protean clinical spectrum, caused by the environmental bacterial pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. Although the disease has been reported from some African countries in the past, the present epidemiology of melioidosis in Africa is almost entirely unknown. Therefore, the common view that melioidosis is rare in Africa is not evidence-based. A recent study concludes that large parts of Africa are environmentally suitable for B. pseudomallei. Twenty-four African countries and three countries in the Middle East were predicted to be endemic, but no cases of melioidosis have been reported yet. In this study, we summarize the present fragmentary knowledge on human and animal melioidosis and environmental B. pseudomallei in Africa and the Middle East. We propose that systematic serological studies in man and animals together with environmental investigations on potential B. pseudomallei habitats are needed to identify risk areas for melioidosis. This information can subsequently be used to target raising clinical awareness and the implementation of simple laboratory algorithms for the isolation of B. pseudomallei from clinical specimens. B. pseudomallei was most likely transferred from Asia to the Americas via Africa, which is shown by phylogenetic analyses. More data on the virulence and genomic characteristics of African B. pseudomallei isolates will contribute to a better understanding of the global evolution of the pathogen and will also help to assess potential differences in disease prevalence and outcome. View Full-Text
Keywords: melioidosis; Africa; Middle East; Burkholderia pseudomallei; genomics; public awareness; environment melioidosis; Africa; Middle East; Burkholderia pseudomallei; genomics; public awareness; environment
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Steinmetz, I.; Wagner, G.E.; Kanyala, E.; Sawadogo, M.; Soumeya, H.; Teferi, M.; Andargie, E.; Yeshitela, B.; Yaba Atsé-Achi, L.; Sanogo, M.; Bonfoh, B.; Rakotozandrindrainy, R.; Pongombo Shongo, C.; Shongoya Pongombo, M.; Kasamba Ilunga, E.; Lichtenegger, S.; Assig, K.; May, J.; Bertherat, E.; Owusu, M.; Owusu-Dabo, E.; Adu-Sarkodie, Y. Melioidosis in Africa: Time to Uncover the True Disease Load. Trop. Med. Infect. Dis. 2018, 3, 62.

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