Melioidosis is a non-contagious infectious disease that is endemic to most of the world's tropical areas, although it is most common in south-east Asia. Because the bacteria that causes the disease thrives in warm, wet environments, it is often referred to as Paddy-field disease as rice paddy workers are one of the highest risk occupational groups. Like some other bacterial diseases, not all persons exposed to the bacteria will develop symptoms of the disease. Persons with diabetes mellitus seem to be at the highest risk. In addition, there can be a long period between exposure and development of symptoms (latency). The record latency period for the disease is 62 years.
Although the bacteria can thrive in wet soil, it is destroyed in dry or cold environments, naturally limiting its spread in dry or cold environments.
The disease can be accurately diagnosed by the use of blood cultures as it will never be part of the normal range of bacteria found in humans. However, it is difficult to diagnose as the symptoms mimic many other diseases, including tuberculosis.
Until 1989, the prognosis for a person with acute melioidosis was very poor, with a mortality rate of 80% even with a three drug regimen. Although the same drugs are still used to treat the disease now, the way they are administered is different and is less likely to result in medicine interaction.
The disease can result in sepsis, and the prognosis once the disease progresses to this stage is very poor.