Oz American scientists spooked by underground bio-terror threat in Darwin

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London, June 20 (ANI): The U.S. Government believes tropical disease, caused by soil-dwelling bacteria, could become the next anthrax-style bio-terrorism threat.

The natural occurring bacteria called Melioidosis has caught the attention of the US Government because of its potential to be used as biological weapon.

Australian and American scientists are now on the verge of a breakthrough in the early diagnosis of the disease that killed 10 people in the Northern Territory in the wet season.

Professor Bart Currie, who works in the infectious diseases department at Royal Darwin Hospital and is the Melioidosis project manager at Menzies School of Health Research, said interest in the bacteria from countries outside the endemic regions had grown dramatically in the past 10 years, particularly since the 2001 anthrax attacks in the US.

A fact sheet compiled by the US Department of Homeland Security lists Melioidosis - scientifically known as Burkholderia pseudomallei - as a category B potential bio-terror threat.

While it is believed Melioidosis has never been used in a biological attack, Dr Currie said the category B listing was justified.

Dr Currie said Melioidosis was very similar to the Glanders bacteria, which was used as a biological weapon in WWI.

He said Menzies was also doing research to examine the ability of the Melioidosis bacterium to Aerosolise during severe weather events, and be inhaled.

Melioidosis is an infection that can be contracted through contact with soil in northern Australia and South-East Asia. (ANI)

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