Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Burkholderia mallei

Synonym(s): Pseudomonas mallei

Contributor(s): Graham Munroe, Rick Titball




  • Phylum: Proteobacteria.
  • Order: Burkholderiales.
  • Family: Burkholderiaceae.
  • Genus:Burkholderia.
  • Species:mallei.
  • Closely related (>80% DNA similarity) to, and subspecies ofBurholderia pseudomallei.


  • Formerly known asPseudomonas mallei, Actinobacillus malleiandMalleomyces mallei.
  • Burkholderia: named after W H Burkholder, an American bacteriologist who discovered the etiological agent of onion rot.
  • mallei: after the Latin name (malleus) for the human disease melioidosis.

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Clinical Effects



  • A parasite of mammals.
  • Cannot grow in the environment or survive for long periods outside of an animal host.


  • Potential routes of infection are:
    • Through mucous membranes via aerosol.
    • Through skin via cuts/abrasions.
    • Infection via the gastrointestinal tract is suggested but not proven.
  • The incubation period is typically between 3-6 day, but may be longer.
  • Glanders is transmitted to humans by direct contact with tissues or body fluids from infected animals, the bacteria entering the body through the skin, and mucosal surfaces of the eyes and nose. The sporadic human cases have been documented in veterinarians, horse handlers, abattoir workers and laboratory technicians.

Pathological effects

  • Various types of infection, including:
    • Localized, pus-forming cutaneous infections.
    • Pulmonary infections.
    • Bloodstream infections.
    • Chronic suppurative infections of the skin.
  • Generalized clinical sings of glanders include:
    • Fever.
    • Muscle aches and tightness.
    • Chest pain.
    • Headache (humans).
    • Donkeys are particularly susceptible to infection, relative to horses and mules.
  • In equines, disease which is associated with primary skin lesions, subsequent lymphangitis, and the formation of ulcerative nodules, is sometime called farcy.

Other Host Effects

  • Excessive tearing of the eyes.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Diarrhea.


Control via animal

  • Destruction of confirmed cases of glanders, and carrier animals.
  • Treatment of the animal is not usually recommended.
  • Where glanders is endemic in animals, prevention of the disease in humans involves identification and elimination of the infection in the animal population.

Control via chemotherapies

  • A range of antimicrobials have been reported to be effective against the bacteriain vitro, eg:
  • Resistance to first and second generation beta-lactam antibiotics such as amoxicillin, ticarcillin, cefoxitin, cefsulodin and norfloxacin, amikacin, fosfomycin and clindamycin has been reported. Some strains also show resistance to other antibiotics.

Control via environment

  • Standard hygienic management practice to prevent transfer of infection between animals.
  • Destroy any contaminated material that may harbor the organism by disinfection or burning.
  • The bacteria is sensitive to various disinfectants   Disinfection  , eg:
    • Benzalkonium chloride   Benzalkonium chloride  .
    • Iodine   Iodine  .
    • Mercuric chloride.
    • Potassium permanganate.
    • 1% sodium hypochlorite.


  • There is no vaccine available.

Other countermeasures

  • Euthanasia of infected animals rather than treatment, which can produce carrier states.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Khan I et al (2011) Comparative evaluation of three commercially available complement fixation test antigens for the diagnosis of glanders. Vet Rec 169 (19), 495 PubMed.
  • Galyov E E, Brett P J & DeShazer D (2010) Molecular insights into Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei Pathogenesis. Ann Rev Microbiol 64, 495-517 PubMed
  • Losada L et al (2010) Continuing evolution of Burkholderia mallei through genome reduction and large-scale rearrangements. Genome Biol Evol 22 (2), 102-116 PubMed.
  • Peacock S J et al (2008) Management of accidental laboratory exposure to Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. malleiEmerg Infect Dis 14 (7), e2 PubMed.
  • Scholz H C et al (2006) Detection of the reemerging agent Burkholderia mallei in a recent outbreak of glanders in the United Arab Emirates by a newly developed fliP-based polymerase chain reaction assay. Diag Microbiol Infect Dis 54 (4), 241-247 PubMed.
  • Ulrich R L et al (2006) Development of a polymerase chain reaction assay for the specific identification of Burkholderia mallei and differentiation from Burkholderia pseudomallei and other closely related Burkholderiaceae. Diag Microbiol Infect Dis 55 (1), 37-45 PubMed.
  • Ulrich M P et al (2006) Using real-time PCR to specifically detect Burkholderia malleiJ Med Microbiol 55 (5), 551-559 PubMed.
  • U'Ren J M et al (2005) Use of a real-time PCR TaqMan assay for rapid identification and differentiation of Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia malleiJ Clin Microbiol 43 (11), 5771-5774 PubMed.
  • Nierman W C et al (2004) Structural flexibility in the Burkholderia mallei genome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 101 (39), 14246-14251 PubMed.
  • Thibault F M et al (2004) Antibiotic susceptibility of 65 isolates of Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei to 35 antimicrobial agents. J Antimicrob Chemo 54 (6), 1134-1138 PubMed.