The worldwide distribution of the environmental bacterial pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei is still unknown, as is the epidemiology of the severe and often fatal disease melioidosis caused by this pathogen. Although the disease has been reported in parts of Africa for decades, the true epidemiology of African melioidosis and the environmental distribution of B. pseudomallei, which is classified as a category B bioterrorism agent, are almost entirely unknown. Highly endemic situations with significant human suffering and economic loss may go undetected, unless clinical awareness is increased and appropriate diagnostic capacities are established.
This program aimes to set up an African research network dedicated to the epidemiology and characteristics of B. pseudomallei and the neglected disease melioidosis. The network focuses on regions in West Africa and Madagascar where the disease is known to exist and is based on an interdisciplinary approach combining expertise from various scientific disciplines.
The program aims to
- determine the incidence and prevalence of melioidosis in humans and animals,
- to determine the environmental distribution and pathogenic potential of African B. pseudomallei strains,
- to identify factors associated with the presence of B. pseudomallei in the environment and thereby the risk to acquire infection, and
- to develop strategies for early treatment and preventive measures.
The project fulfills the demand for continent-wide African research programs and is in line with the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership to improve health in Africa by using state-of-art biotechnology.
The Austrian part of this project within ERAfrica was funded and administered by the KEF.