Melioidosis could pose similar threat as anthrax

U.S. government officials believe a tropical disease caused by soil-dwelling microbes could pose a potential bio-terrorism threat similar to anthrax.

American and Australian scientists are now in the process of studying the natural-occurring bacterium, named Melioidosis, as they believe it could mean a breakthrough in the diagnosis of a disease that killed 10 people in Australia’s Northern Territory this past rainy season, according to a report.

Professor Bart Currie, an infectious disease specialist at Royal Darwin Hospital and the Melioidosis project manager at the Menzies School of Health Research, told that interest in the bacterium from countries outside the indigenous areas of the disease has increased dramatically over the past 10 years, particularly since the anthrax attacks of 2001 against the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security classifies Melioidosis as a Category B potential biothreat.

While Currie told he didn’t know of any incidents in which Melioidosis was used as a bio-terrorist agent, he noted the Department of Homeland Security classification was definitely appropriate.

Currie concluded that Melioidosis is comparable to Glanders microorganisms, which were used as a biological weapon during the second World War, according to the report.