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ABSTRACT Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia cepacia are Gram-negative, soil-dwelling bacteria that are found in a wide variety of environmental niches. While B. pseudomallei is the causative agent of melioidosis in humans and animals, members of the B. cepacia complex typically only cause disease in immunocompromised hosts. In this study, we report the identification of B. cepacia strains isolated from either patients or soil in Laos and Thailand that express a B. pseudomallei -like 6-deoxyheptan capsular polysaccharide (CPS). These B. cepacia strains were initially identified based on their positive reactivity in a latex agglutination assay that uses the CPS-specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) 4B11. Mass spectrometry and recA sequencing confirmed the identity of these isolates as B. cepacia (formerly genomovar I). Total carbohydrates extracted from B. cepacia cell pellets reacted with B. pseudomallei CPS-specific mAbs MCA147, 3C5, and 4C4, but did not react with the B. pseudomallei lipopolysaccharide-specific mAb Pp-PS-W. Whole genome sequencing of the B. cepacia isolates revealed the presence of genes demonstrating significant homology to those comprising the B. pseudomallei CPS biosynthetic gene cluster. Collectively, our results provide compelling evidence that B. cepacia strains expressing the same CPS as B. pseudomallei co-exist in the environment alongside B. pseudomallei . Since CPS is a target that is often used for presumptive identification of B. pseudomallei , it is possible that the occurrence of these unique B. cepacia strains may complicate the diagnosis of melioidosis. IMPORTANCE Burkholderia pseudomallei , the etiologic agent of melioidosis, is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. The 6-deoxyheptan capsular polysaccharide (CPS) expressed by this bacterial pathogen is a promising target antigen that is useful for rapidly diagnosing melioidosis. Using assays incorporating CPS-specific monoclonal antibodies, we identified both clinical and environmental isolates of Burkholderia cepacia that express the same CPS antigen as B. pseudomallei . Because of this, it is important that staff working in melioidosis-endemic areas are aware that these strains co-exist in the same niches as B. pseudomallei and do not solely rely on CPS-based assays such as latex-agglutination, AMD Plus Rapid Tests, or immunofluorescence tests for the definitive identification of B. pseudomallei isolates.

Original publication




Journal article


Microbiology Spectrum


American Society for Microbiology

Publication Date