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March 1991

Melioidosis: Forgotten, but Not Gone!

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology (Drs Koponen and Merlin) and Internal Medicine (Drs Zlock, Palmer, and Merlin), University of New Mexico School of Medicine and the Federal Regional Medical Center, Albuquerque, NM.

Arch Intern Med. 1991;151(3):605-608. doi:10.1001/archinte.1991.00400030135027

Melioidosis, infection by the soil bacterium Pseudomonas pseudomallei, has the potential for prolonged latency with recrudescence into an acute, often fulminating, and fatal infection. Although the organism is never found in North America, infection is endemic in areas of southeast Asia, and populations of service personnel exposed during the Vietnam war and southeast Asian immigrants are at risk of severe recrudescent disease. Diagnosis, however, has been missed or delayed because of lack of familiarity with this disease. We present a case of recrudescent melioidosis that illustrates the difficulties encountered in diagnosis and treatment. This case involves a 76-year-old Vietnam veteran who presented with melioidosis of the bone 18 years after exposure to the organism and 10 years after a missed diagnosis of latent pulmonary disease. This case illustrates the protean nature of latent infection and the difficulty of selecting successful antibiotic therapy.

(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:605-608)