Melioidosis is a disease carried by the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei which can infect humans and animals through soil and water. The clinical symptoms of melioidosis are complex and similar to symptoms of other diseases including dengue, tuberculosis, leptospirosis and others.
This first of its kind in the world, the diagnostic tool known as Meliodot was produced by Dr. Zainoodin Sheikh Abdul Kader, a researcher and Senior Lecturer of the Advanced Medical and Dental Institute, USM.
He said that many parties are aware of the threat of this disease. Nevertheless, the lack of an accurate diagnostic tool has been the main obstacle in providing effective treatment to prevent complications to patients.
“For now, we are using cultures to detect melioidosis but this conventional method is complicated and time-consuming as it takes almost 4 days to obtain the results.
"However, the results are still not accurate and various follow-up lab procedures have to be carried out to determine that it is in fact melioidosis," he said at a media conference here today.
He said that in view of this, Meliodot is the answer to the dilemma faced by medical personnel and scientists in confirming the disease, often regarded as a silent killer and time bomb.
Zainoodin explained that with Meliodot, patients’ blood samples (serum or plasma) will be tested to detect the presence of antibodies towards melioidosis and the results can be obtained within three hours.
"Melioidosis is a curable disease and early diagnosis is of immense help in providing effective treatment and at the same time can help in reducing mortality rates", he said.
He added that this disease is widespread and Singapore, Australia and Thailand are among the countries that have high rates of melioidosis infection.
“Even though in Malaysia melioidosis does not fall into the category of notifiable diseases, nevertheless preparations have to be put in place because humans, irrespective of age or gender, are easily susceptible to the disease,” he said.
He added that high-risk groups include the Army, agricultural workers, construction workers, farmers, oil palm plantation workers, slaughter house workers because of the direct effects from the soil.
Speaking about the commercialisation of Meliodot, he said: "Many parties will be interested in this test kit based on the accuracy of the test results.
"Apart from this, the various test kits made by other parties are not suitable as diagnostic tools because lack specificity and sensitivity, unlike Meliodot that can reach a sensitivity level of up to 95.5 percent and a specificity level of 92.5 percent.’’
He also added that the Meliodot kit has been used in Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM) since its development in1998 and so far has successfully helped more than 120 melioidosis patients to receive early, appropriate and effective treatment.
Meliodot has been patented internationally and USM in still in the process of negotiation with the industry to commercialize the product by the end of this year.
"This delegation to Gaza will see how we can help them acquire an education. For example, if schools cannot be built, containers can be turned into schools, and perhaps there are other technologies that we can take along with us," he said.
Commenting on the risks they may encounter, he said "Of course there are risks but in our efforts to help them, these are risks we have to take. Besides, two of our students have already gone there and they have given us a picture as to how we can help the Palestinians."