As if the world wasn’t scary enough, scientists have now discovered that you can ingest a bacteria that has a 50/50 chance of killing you just by breathing in. The bacteria, called Burkholderia pseudomallei, spurs a disease known as melioidosis. It has previously been found in Southeast Asia and Australia, killing 89,000 people annually.
In Australia, those who ingest the bacteria have a 20 to 50 percent chance of dying from it. Scarily enough, it lives in the soil of heavily-populated areas like Darwin, meaning locals should be extra aware. The mortality rate jumps significantly in Asian countries and northern Australia, where the chances of survival drop down to 50/50.
Symptoms of melioidosis include fever, bone pain, and abscesses in the liver.
Scientists have long been aware of this deadly disease, but they didn’t know how it was contracted until a recent study confirmed that one can get it simply by breathing. The study found that in mice, the bacteria can travel from the nose to the spinal cord in as little as 24 hours.
However, this doesn’t mean that the bacteria will make you ill in 24 hours. The bacteria has a curiously-long incubation period, and one could have the bacteria for several years before becoming sick. The longest incubation period for the disease has been 62 years by a man who inhaled the bacteria during a stint in a POW camp in Japan during WWII.
Scientists Excited About the Finding
While this news is certainly unsettling, scientists are actually excited about the discovery. The new research, which was published in Immunity and Infection, could help researchers learn how staphylococcus and acne bacterium become lodged in the spinal cord, in addition to how chlamydia travels to the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. Professionals also say this is great for patients who suffer with back pain that may be an infection that has traveled to the spinal cord and can be treated with antibiotics.
They are also finding ways to stimulate the cells so that they can be extracted from the spinal cord once someone is infected, allowing them a much higher rate of survival.