Melioidosis in suspected recurrent tuberculosis: A disease in disguise

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Journal of Infection in Developing Countries


Introduction: Melioidosis, caused by the soil saprophyte B. pseudomallei, is a ‘neglected’ infectious disease in many Asian countries. It remained undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in India for long due to a lack of awareness and facilities to diagnose the disease; however, it is slowly gaining the status of an emerging disease recently. The disease is well known as a great mimicker, as the presentations are very similar to many other tropical diseases, and more importantly, to tuberculosis . Methodology: A prospective observational study was conducted from January 2016 – December 2018 to find the occurance of melioidosis in patients with ‘recurrent’ tuberculosis infection in a tertiary health care hospital from southern India. All suspected cases of recurrent tuberculosis were simultaneously tested for the presence of B. pseudomallei, and basic demographics and clinical details were documented. Result: Among 11,138 patients admitted with suspected tuberculosis infection, 586 (5.2%) patients were confirmed. There was recurrent Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in 11/586 (1.8%) cases, and 7/586 (1.2%) had growth of B. pseudomallei in culture. Patients with melioidosis had either pulmonary involvement, or bone and joint infections and deep abscesses. Uncontrolled diabetes mellitus was the major risk factor. Conclusion: The study foreshadows the need for prompt and accurate microbiological diagnosis along with a high index of suspicion from the clinicians in countries which are endemic for both melioidosis and tuberculosis, thus ameliorating the irrational anti-tuberculosis treatment.

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