A fatal bacteria can be sniffed up while walking around in contaminated water and soil. The bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei is known to cause melioidosis, an infectious disease that kills about 89,000 people globally per year.
Also known as Whitmore's disease, the condition infects both humans and animals and is prevalent in regions with tropical climates. It is particularly widespread in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, where individuals infected with melioidosis have between 20 and 50 percent likelihood of dying once the bacteria infect the brain. It is commonly found in populated areas in Northern Australia during the wet season, prompting authorities to warn residents to keep away from mud, groundwater and aerosolized soil.
‘A simple act of sniffing could put your life at risk. The deadly bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei known to cause the fatal Melioidosis could gain its entry through your nose into the brain and spinal cord and cause death in less than a day.’
Individuals with diabetes, skin wounds and chronic renal disease are at increased risk for contracting melioidosis.
Researches were not sure about how the pathogen gained its entry when a new study was done using lab mice. This has revealed that the bacteria can be transmitted from the trigeminal nerves in nasal cavity to the brain and spinal cord (CNS- central nervous system) within 24 hours.
After intranasal inoculation of mice, B. pseudomallei caused low-level localized infection within the nasal cavity epithelium, before invading the trigeminal nerve in small numbers. B. pseudomallei rapidly invaded the trigeminal nerve and crossed the astrocytic barrier to enter the brainstem within 24 hours and then rapidly progressed over 2,000 μm into the spinal cord, the researchers reported in their findings which was published in the journal Infection and Immunity
Study researcher Ifor Beacham from Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics, said that it has long been known that the olfactory mucosa, in the nose which lies close to the brain, serves as a pathway for pathogens to reach the brain . "Our latest results represent the first direct demonstration of transit of a bacterium from the olfactory mucosa to the central nervous system (CNS) via the trigeminal nerve," Beacham added.
"Imagine walking around and you sniff it up from the soil and the next day you've got this bacteria in your brain and damaging the spinal cord," said James St John, who is head of the Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University.
Nearly half the population in south- east Asia may have it, and the mortality rate is as high as 50 percent in places like Cambodia and northern Australia. It has a very long incubation period and the bacteria could be lying dormant waiting for an opportune moment to strike causing small incremental damages all the while.
Scientists are looking for ways to remove the bacteria by stimulating the cells present around it.