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Paediatric melioidosis in the Northern Territory of Australia: An expanding clinical spectrum


Correspondence: KMEdmond, Dept of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP, UK; email:


Objective: The objective of this study was to present the laboratory and clinical features of the six cases of paediatric melioidosis diagnosed from 1997–;2000.

Methodology: All cases of melioidosis confirmed by the pathology department of Royal Darwin Hospital were prospectively identified by culture and/or serology.

Results: Four children were Aboriginal and all six cases presented during the rainy season (November–;April) in rural areas in the tropical Top End of the Northern Territory. Delay in diagnosis ranged from 5 and 11 days. Two cases had localized melioidosis, two cases had underlying disease and were likely to be colonized with Burkholderia pseudomallei (B. pseudomallei). Two cases had neurological melioidosis with major residual disability. No deaths occurred.

Conclusions: Melioidosis remains an unusual disease in children in the tropical Northern Territory. The average annual incidence since 1997 is 5.48 per 100 000. This series demonstrates that children in Australia can have serious neurological complications from B. pseudomallei infection. All children living in or visiting tropical Australia are at risk, especially those residing in rural areas in the rainy season. Melioidosis remains a difficult disease to manage, and expert opinion should be sought if B. pseudomallei is cultured from any site.