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Concept: Glanders


BACKGROUND: Glanders is a contagious and fatal zoonotic disease of solipeds caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia (B.) mallei. Although regulations call for culling of diseased animals, certain situations e.g. wild life conservation, highly valuable breeding stock, could benefit from effective treatment schemes and post-exposure prophylaxis. RESULTS: Twenty three culture positive glanderous horses were successfully treated during a confined outbreak by applying a treatment protocol of 12 weeks duration based on the parenteral administration of enrofloxacin and trimethoprim plus sulfadiazine, followed by the oral administration of doxycycline. Induction of immunosupression in six randomly chosen horses after completion of treatment did not lead to recrudescence of disease. CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that long term treatment of glanderous horses with a combination of various antibiotics seems to eliminate the agent from the organism. However, more studies are needed to test the effectiveness of this treatment regime on B. mallei strains from different endemic regions. Due to its cost and duration, this treatment can only be an option in certain situations and should not replace the current “testing and culling” policy, in conjunction with adequate compensation to prevent spreading of disease.

Concepts: HIV, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Malaria, Lyme disease, Burkholderia mallei, Zoonosis, Glanders


The genus Burkholderia consists of diverse species which includes both “friends” and “foes.” Some of the “friendly” Burkholderia spp. are extensively used in the biotechnological and agricultural industry for bioremediation and biocontrol. However, several members of the genus including B. pseudomallei, B. mallei, and B. cepacia, are known to cause fatal disease in both humans and animals. B. pseudomallei and B. mallei are the causative agents of melioidosis and glanders, respectively, while B. cepacia infection is lethal to cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Due to the high rate of infectivity and intrinsic resistance to many commonly used antibiotics, together with high mortality rate, B. mallei and B. pseudomallei are considered to be potential biological warfare agents. Treatments of the infections caused by these bacteria are often unsuccessful with frequent relapse of the infection. Thus, we are at a crucial stage of the need for Burkholderia vaccines. Although the search for a prophylactic therapy candidate continues, to date development of vaccines has not advanced beyond research to human clinical trials. In this article, we review the current research on development of safe vaccines with high efficacy against B. pseudomallei, B. mallei, and B. cepacia. It can be concluded that further research will enable elucidation of the potential benefits and risks of Burkholderia vaccines.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Biological warfare, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Melioidosis, Glanders


Burkholderia mallei is the aetiological agent of glanders, a highly contagious and re-emerging zoonotic disease. Early diagnosis of glanders is critically important to ensure timely treatment with appropriate antibiotics in humans, and to prevent spread of infection in animals. Molecular detection of B. mallei has always been troublesome because of its genetic similarity with Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis. In present investigation, a set of six B. mallei-specific primers were designed and a simple, rapid, specific and sensitive real-time loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay was developed for detection of B. mallei. The LAMP assay could detect as low as 1 pg of B. mallei genomic DNA and 5.5 × 10(3)  CFU/ml of B. mallei in spiked human blood. The assay was highly specific for B. mallei as it did not cross-react with other bacterial strains used in the study. The established LAMP assay is field adaptable and can be a better and viable alternative to PCR-based techniques for detection of B. mallei in glanders endemic areas with resource-limited settings.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Bacteria, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderiales, Melioidosis, Glanders


This article critically reviews the literature on the history of biological warfare, bioterrorism, and biocrimes. The first serious effort to review this entire history, made in 1969, had numerous limitations. In recent decades, several authors have filled many of the gaps in our understanding of the past use of biological agents (including both pathogens and toxins), making it possible to reconstruct that history with greater fidelity than previously possible. Nevertheless, there are numerous remaining gaps, and closer inspection indicates that some supposed uses of biological weapons never took place or are poorly substantiated. Topics requiring additional research are identified.

Concepts: Biological warfare, Bioterrorism, World War II, Glanders, Biological agent


Burkholderia mallei is a Gram-negative, non-motile, facultative intracellular bacillus and the causative agent of glanders, a highly contagious zoonotic disease. B. mallei is naturally resistant to multiple antibiotics and there is concern for its potential use as a bioweapon, making the development of a vaccine against B. mallei of critical importance. We have previously demonstrated that immunization with multivalent outer membrane vesicles (OMV) derived from B. pseudomallei provide significant protection against pneumonic melioidosis. Given that many virulence determinants are highly conserved between the two species, we sought to determine if the B. pseudomallei OMV vaccine could cross-protect against B. mallei. We immunized C57Bl/6 mice and rhesus macaques with B. pseudomallei OMVs and subsequently challenged animals with aerosolized B. mallei. Immunization with B. pseudomallei OMVs significantly protected mice against B. mallei and the protection observed was comparable to that achieved with a live attenuated vaccine. OMV immunization induced the production of B.mallei-specific serum IgG and a mixed Th1/Th17 CD4 and CD8 T cell response in mice. Additionally, immunization of rhesus macaques with B. pseudomallei OMVs provided protection against glanders and induced B.mallei-specific serum IgG in non-human primates. These results demonstrate the ability of the multivalent OMV vaccine platform to elicit cross-protection against closely-related intracellular pathogens and to induce robust humoral and cellular immune responses against shared protective antigens.

Concepts: Immune system, Primate, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderiales, Melioidosis, Glanders


In this study, a Burkholderia mallei tonB mutant (TMM001) deficient in iron acquisition was constructed, characterized, and evaluated for its protective properties in acute inhalational infection models of murine glanders and melioidosis.

Concepts: Germany, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Glanders


Glanders is a highly contagious and often fatal zoonotic disease, primarily of solipds. In the developed world, glanders has been eradicated. However, prior use of B. mallei as a biological weapon and its high mortality in inhalation animal studies has affirmed B. mallei as a biodefense concern. This threat requires the development of new glanders medical countermeasures (MCMs), as there is a lack of an effective vaccine and lengthy courses of multiple antibiotics needed to eradicate B. mallei. Here, we present a literature review of human glanders in which we discuss the clinical epidemiology and risk factors, potential routes of exposure, symptoms, the incubation period, and specific diagnostics. This review focuses on pulmonary glanders, as this is the most likely outcome of a biological weapons attack. Additionally, we outline current treatment regimens and propose a clinical definition of human pulmonary glanders infection.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Brucellosis, Smallpox, Biological warfare, Bioterrorism, Glanders


Burkholderia mallei causes the highly contagious and debilitating zoonosis glanders, which infects via inhalation or percutaneous inoculation and often culminates in life-threatening pneumonia and sepsis. In humans, glanders is difficult to diagnose and requires prolonged antibiotic therapy with low success rates. No vaccine exists to protect against B. mallei, and there is concern regarding its use as a bioweapon. The authors previously identified the protein BpaB as a potential target for devising therapies due to its role in adherence to host cells and the formation of biofilms in vitro and its contribution to pathogenicity in a mouse model of glanders. In the present study, the authors developed an immunostaining approach to probe tissues of experimentally infected animals and demonstrated that BpaB is produced exclusively in vivo by wild-type B. mallei in target organs from mice and marmosets. They detected the expression of BpaB by B. mallei both extracellularly and within macrophages, neutrophils, and epithelial cells in respiratory tissues (7/10 marmoset; 2/2 mouse). The authors also noted the intracellular expression of BpaB by B. mallei in macrophages in the regional lymph nodes of mice (2/2 tissues) and MALT of marmosets (4/5 tissues). It is interesting that B. mallei bacteria infecting distal organs did not express BpaB (2/2 mice; 3/3 marmosets), suggesting that the protein is not necessary for bacterial fitness in these anatomic locations. These findings underscore the value of BpaB as a target for developing medical countermeasures and provide insight into its role in pathogenesis.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Bacteria, Lymph node, Infection, In vitro, Burkholderia mallei, Glanders


Glanders is an infectious and contagious bacterial disease of equines. A little is known about its seroprevalence and risk factors in working equines in countries where the disease is endemic. Also, there are no reports on prevalence of the disease in areas where there is a prior evidence of Burkholderia (B.) mallei detection in soil. A cross-sectional study was conducted in selected districts (n=09) of Punjab province of Pakistan during 2014-2015. A total of 1008 serum samples were screened for detection of antibodies to B. mallei with complement fixation test followed by western blot. The overall seroprevalence was found to be 3.17% (95% CI: 2.25-4.44). The seropositivity was significantly higher from the sampling sites where B. mallei was detected in soil [OR: 10.66 (95% CI: 4.42-31.66), p=0.00]. Other risk factors significantly associated with animal seropositivity were: age group [OR: 1.78 (95% CI: 4.58-15.56), p=0.00], location in urban area [OR: 2.99 (95% CI: 1.46-6.51), p=0.00],body condition [OR: 3.47 (95% CI: 1.64-7.99), p=0.00], presence of farcy lesion[OR: 7.71 (95% CI: 3.47-19.50), p=0.00], proximity to water bodies [OR: 7.71 (95% CI: 3.47-19.50), p=0.00]; domestic animal population [OR: 3.20 (95% CI: 1.24-10.87), p=0.03] and number of households in sampling area [OR: 4.18 (95%CI: 1.82-11.30), p=0.00]. The study provides an estimate of prevalence of glanders and a potential link between animal seropositivity and presence of B. mallei in soil. The risk factors identified in this study can be used in surveillance and disease awareness. The high prevalence of disease in draught horses and contact of infected animals with their care-takers in developing countries signify need toinitiate progressive control of the disease using one health approach.

Concepts: Antibody, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Molecular biology, Infection, Burkholderia mallei, Pakistan, Glanders


Burkholderia mallei is a Gram-negative coccobacillus which causes glanders-a fatal disease of equines that may occasionally be transmitted to humans. Several cases of outbreaks have been reported from India since 2006. This paper presents draft genome sequences of two B. mallei strains isolated from equines affected by glanders in India.

Concepts: Causality, Human Genome Project, Horse, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderiales, Glanders