Identification of <i>Burkholderia thailandensis</i> with novel genotypes in the soil of central Sierra Leone

by Emma Birnie, Senne van ’t Hof, Anne Bijnsdorp, Yembeh Mansaray, Erdi Huizenga, Arie van der Ende, Floor Hugenholtz, Martin P. Grobusch, W. Joost Wiersinga


The soil-dwelling bacillus Burkholderia pseudomallei is the etiological-agent of the neglected and life-threatening emerging infection melioidosis. The distribution of B. pseudomallei in West Africa is unknown. In the present study we aimed to determine whether B. pseudomallei and B. thailandensis are present in the environment of central Sierra Leone.

Methodology/Principal findings

In June-July 2017, we conducted an environmental surveillance study–designed in accordance with existing consensus guidelines—in central Sierra Leone. A total of 1,000 soil samples (100 per site) were collected and cultured. B. pseudomallei was not identified in the soil, but we identified seven novel B. thailandensis sequence types with multi-locus sequence typing (MLST) and 16S rRNA gene sequence analyses.


The presence of B. pseudomallei was not demonstrated, however, multiple novel B. thailandensis sequence types were identified. More environmental and sequencing studies are needed to further understand the genetic diversity, evolution and virulence of these emerging organisms.

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