Climatic drivers of melioidosis in Laos and Cambodia: a 16-year case series analysis

Philip L. Bulterys, Michelle A. Bulterys, Koukeo Phommasone, Manophab Luangraj, Mayfong Mayxay, Sabine Kloprogge, Thyl Miliya, Manivanh Vongsouvath, Paul N. Newton, Rattanaphone Phetsouvanh, Christopher T. French, Jeff F. Miller, Paul Turner, David A.B. Dance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Burkholderia pseudomallei is the cause of melioidosis, a serious and difficult to treat infection that is endemic throughout the tropics. Melioidosis incidence is highly seasonal. We aimed to identify the climatic drivers of infection and to shed light on modes of transmission and potential preventive strategies. Methods: We examined the records of patients diagnosed with melioidosis at the Microbiology Laboratory of Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, Laos, between October, 1999, and August, 2015, and all patients with culture-confirmed melioidosis presenting to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia, between February, 2009, and December, 2013. We also examined local temperature, humidity, precipitation, visibility, and wind data for the corresponding time periods. We estimated the B pseudomallei incubation period by examining profile likelihoods for hypothetical exposure-to-presentation delays. Findings: 870 patients were diagnosed with melioidosis in Laos and 173 patients were diagnosed with melioidosis in Cambodia during the study periods. Melioidosis cases were significantly associated with humidity (p<0·0001), low visibility (p<0·0001), and maximum wind speeds (p<0·0001) in Laos, and humidity (p=0·010), rainy days (p=0·015), and maximum wind speed (p=0·0070) in Cambodia. Compared with adults, children were at significantly higher odds of infection during highly humid months (odds ratio 2·79, 95% CI 1·83–4·26). Lung and disseminated infections were more common during windy months. The maximum likelihood estimate of the incubation period was 1 week (95% CI 0–2). Interpretation: The results of this study demonstrate a significant seasonal burden of melioidosis among adults and children in Laos and Cambodia. Our findings highlight the risks of infection during highly humid and windy conditions, and suggest a need for increased awareness among at-risk individuals, such as children. Funding: Wellcome Trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e334-e343
JournalThe Lancet Planetary Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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