Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Malaysians are very anxious with the recent outbreaks of the so-inappropriately-called mouse-urine disease in several river resort areas in several states.

Leptospirosis is the right name for the disease, and the organism causing the disease, Leptospira is found not only in mouse's urine but also in urine of other animals, including infected man.

Pity the mouse getting the bad name for a disease spread by not only them but by other creatures too.

Still remember sometimes back the state of Malacca refusing to name a newly discovered virus Malacca virus just because the Chief Minister was afraid that the name would have a negative impact on tourism.

This was, in my opinion, not true. Places, villages, towns and cities have been chosen as names of diseases. Who can still remember Hendra, Nipah, Newcastle? Salmonella was after the name of its founder, Salmon something!

While browsing through the Internet I found one very old, in fact just one year younger than me, paper on Leptospirosis in Malaysia. The study showed that the disease was very prevalent here at that time.

The study showed that 25% of human population, 33.3% of domestic animal and 33.3% of wild rodents tested showed evidence of antibodies to one or more strains of Leptospira.

In humans the antibody was uniformly high in urban, ruaral and jungle inhabitants alike, which in domestic animals horses, oxen, pigs and dogs showed high incidence.

The strains of Leprospira here include Leptospira hebdomadis, L. pyrogenes, L. icterohemorraghiae and L. grippotyphosa.

I have even lost a Sdara due to Leptospirosis.

Melioidosis, on the other hand is found in many areas including SEA, Northern Australia, South Pacific, Africa and India. The organism causing this disease is Burkholderia psudomallei (formerly called Pseudomonas psudomallei)a bacterium commonly found in soil, paddy field and stagnant water.

The disease was once called Vietnam's time bomb amongst the US soldiers after the Vietnam war. Soldiers were dying well after the war was over in the US. Autopsy revealed that they had melioidosis. It was most probably that they got infected inhaling the bacteria in the soil dust as the helicopter hovered or through drinking of contaminated and raw water.

A son of one of my staffs in Kuantan perished due to the disease. My investigation showed that he had often played with an infected sheep and also played in water puddle around his house which was also infected with the bacteria.

So you see, both Leptospirosis and Melioidosis can get you if you are not careful. Both can kill. Take care what you touch, where you swim and what you eat or drink when you are out there in the jungle or river enjoying yourselves.

1 comment:

Martin Lee said...

I had gone to the Pelangi waterfall in Sungei Lembing and one had to cross the river and also take bath there because there were no public utilities.

I had read your blog before that, I only dared to use the water to wipe my face and not even to take a dip inside the cold and refreshing water despite invitation by my friend to do so!