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Burkholderia mallei

Burkholderia mallei (Glanders)

Burkholderia mallei is a bacterial pathogen which can cause the disease Glanders[1].  It is the first sample retrieved from William by Phillip and Elizabeth in the Glanders episode.  It is considered a potential biological warfare agent[2].

Background Edit

Primarily affecting horses, mules, and donkeys, rarely humans, burkholderia mallei is an antibiotic semi-resistant pathogen.  Unlike other members of the bacteria’s family it is not capable of surviving in soil and requires a living host in which to grow and transmit infection.  It is resistant to several antibiotics.

Allegedly used by the Germans to destroy Russian horses in World War I, by the Japanese in World War II, and by the Russians in Afghanistan (1982-1984) it has a potential fatality rate of 95%.

Glanders Edit

Infection from burkholderia mallei results in a disease named Glanders.  

In chronic (persistent or continuous) infections in horses it is responsible for a thick nasal mucus discharge and lung lesions.  Infected hosts can survive for months before death. Acute infection (as seen in Gabriel’s infection in E.P.C.O.T) results in high fever, coughing, and an infectious nasal discharge before septicemia causes death within a few days.

Method of transmission to the host also affects the symptoms - if infected through the skin, a skin infection will occur, whilst inhalation will cause septicemia and infection of the lungs, liver and spleen.

Treatment Edit

The americans-burkholderia mallei

Phillip holding burkholderia mallei in Glanders

Burkholderia mallei is resistant to several types of antibiotics and there is no current vaccine for the disease.  It is however susceptible to several disinfectants, heat and UV destruction, and several other types of antibiotics (one of which, Chloramphenicol, is given to Gabriel, Phillip and Elizabeth by William in Chloramphenicol and EPCOT).

Biological Warfare Edit

Burkholderia mallei infections have a mortality rate of 95% if left untreated, 50% if treated by antibiotic.  Such a high mortality rate even despite treatment makes the bacteria a known potential biological warfare agent[2].  

Research on the bacterium can only be conducted in a biosafety Level 3[2] research facility.  William is said to be working in such a facility and as such was able to provide the sample to Gabriel.

The bacteria is (officially) poorly researched but appears to be unofficially researched by many governments.

References Edit

  1. http://jcm.asm.org/content/41/5/2068.long
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.ima.org.il/FilesUpload/IMAJ/0/46/23087.pdf

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