Burkholderia pseudomallei (Bp) is the causative agent of melioidosis, a disease of the tropics with high clinical mortality rates. To date, no vaccines are approved for melioidosis and current treatment relies on antibiotics. Conversely, common misdiagnosis and high pathogenicity of Bp hamper efforts to fight melioidosis. This bacterium can be isolated from a wide range of niches such as waterlogged fields, stagnant water bodies, salt water bodies and from human and animal clinical specimens. Although extensive studies have been undertaken to elucidate pathogenesis mechanisms of Bp, little is known about how a harmless soil bacterium adapts to different environmental conditions, in particular, the shift to a human host to become a highly virulent pathogen. The bacterium has a large genome encoding an armory of factors that assist the pathogen in surviving under stressful conditions and assuming its role as a deadly intracellular pathogen. This review presents an overview of what is currently known about how the pathogen adapts to different environments. With in-depth understanding of Bp adaptation and survival, more effective therapies for melioidosis can be developed by targeting related genes or proteins that play a major role in the bacteria's survival.

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