Researchers have uncovered the secret of the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is the causative agent of the "Vietnamese fever" and in some cases kills a person within a day after infection.
Representing the Australian University of Griffith, James St John and his colleagues managed to find out how Burkholderia pseudomallei enters the brain and kills a person within 24 hours after infection.
An experiment on mice showed that the microorganism uses a rather specific scheme. It enters the human body with the help of the olfactory nerves in the nasal cavity: they are used as a kind of "highway" through which the bacteria are directed towards the brain and freely penetrate the blood-brain barrier. The latter is the physiological barrier between the circulatory and central nervous systems.
However, this is not all: the microbe then spreads through the spinal cord throughout the entire human body. This method of penetration and distribution explains why Burkholderia pseudomallei is so dangerous to humans and why it can kill them in such a short time. According to scientists, the discovery will make it possible to more effectively counter the threat. So, proteins have already been isolated, with the help of which the microorganism penetrates into the olfactory neurons.
Burkholderia pseudomallei causes the most dangerous disease - melioidosis. This is an acute infectious disease that occurs in the form of severe sepsis with the formation of multiple abscesses in different organs or in the form of relatively benign pulmonary forms. If we talk about the course and symptoms, then the disease is similar to acute tuberculosis.
The population of South and Southeast Asia suffers the most from melioidosis: here more than 90 thousand people die from the "Vietnamese fever" every year. In these regions, HIV and tuberculosis alone kill more of the population. Melioidosis has two forms: acute and chronic. In acute, fatal outcome is observed in 40% of cases. In the chronic form, the patient may experience the first symptoms 10–20 years after infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei.