Staff at a laboratory in Arizona were exposed to deadly bacteria that cause melioidosis, a disease with a 50% fatality rate, according to a new medial journal report.
The previously unrevealed exposure occurred in 2021 at the microbiology lab at the Mayo Clinic Arizona in Phoenix. The clinic’s staff were examining a swab sample from a 58-year-old patient.
Three employees were later identified as exposed — and one was singled out as a “high-risk exposure.”
The employee with high-risk exposure “performed an aerosolizing procedure outside of the biologic safety cabinet,” according to the report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
That employee also had a preexisting condition that could make them more vulnerable to illnesses.
The bacteria, known as Burkholderia pseudomallei, was seen only in tropical Asia and Australia, but has now .
One of the adult patients died, and a second adult patient survived but was left with severe health problems, according to case studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Two children were also treated for melioidosis: a 4-year-old girl survived but was wheelchair-bound and unable to speak, and a 5-year-old boy eventually died.