Bacteria That Causes Rare Disease Found in U.S. Soil, Water for the First Time

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detected a potentially deadly bacteria in soil and water samples in the United States for the first time.

The CDC warned on July 27 that it has found Burkholderia pseudomallei or B. pseudomallei, a bacteria that can cause a rare, tropical disease called melioidosis, in the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi after two unrelated residents became sick two years apart — in 2020 and 2022.

According to the CDC, the soil and water samples indicated that the bacteria from the environment was the likely source of infection for both individuals and has been present since at least 2020.

The CDC said it was unclear where else the bacteria might be found in the U.S.

The CDC issued a health advisory to alert healthcare providers and clinicians to be aware of the potential for more cases of melioidosis.

The CDC also urged residents in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, as well as those with health conditions that may put them at higher risk, to take precautions to protect themselves, such as avoiding contact with soil or muddy water and wearing waterproof boots.

The U.S. sees about a dozen cases of melioidosis, most of which involve people who had traveled overseas, according to the CDC.

Melioidosis is fatal in 10 to 50% of those infected in worldwide cases.

The bacteria has historically been found in tropical climates, such as South and Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and parts of Central and South America and Puerto Rico.

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