Melioidosis, an infection caused by the gram-negative bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, is an important cause of pneumonia, skin infection, sepsis, and death in Southeast Asia and Australia, but is exceedingly rare in North America. Pulmonary melioidosis typically presents as acute bacterial pneumonia or cavitary lung lesions resembling tuberculosis.
We report melioidosis in a 70-year-old active smoker from Mexico with no history of travel to disease-endemic areas. The patient presented with a left supraclavicular abscess and a non-cavitary, left lung mass encasing a pulmonary vein. Incision and drainage of the patient's subcutaneous abscess isolated B. pseudomallei, and fine-needle aspiration of enlarged mediastinal lymph nodes revealed the presence of intracellular gram-negative bacilli with no evidence of malignancy. Biochemical tests determined that the strain the patient acquired from Mexico is identical to only 1 other isolate from Thailand.
This report highlights the blurring epidemiological borders of this organism, its rare presentation mimicking lung malignancy, and an aggressive antimicrobial treatment that resulted in resolution of the patient's symptoms.