Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Disarming a potential bioweapon found in Asian soils


Researchers in Thailand trying to tackle a deadly bacterial disease called melioidosis have struggled to get funding to complete clinical trials of new drugs. Now, US government concern that the bacterium could be used as a bioweapon is generating new interest — and funds.

The bacterium — Burkholderia pseudomallei — can kill those infected within 48 hours and is resistant to many drugs. It is found in soil and threatens people working in waterlogged rice fields.

A closely related species that can kill horses, Burkholderia mallei, was used as a biological weapon in the First World War.

In this article in Nature, Peter Aldhous reports that research on the bacterium has been given fresh impetus since fears grew that it too could one day be used as a weapon.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has begun supporting research on both species.

Last year, the entire genetic sequences of both bacteria were published, raising hopes that researchers will be able to develop new drugs. One researcher is already testing a vaccine developed against Burkholderia mallei, with the hope that it might also prevent melioidosis in people.

Link to full article in Nature
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.