In melioidosis-endemic regions the importance of re-activation of Burkholderia pseudomallei from latent foci remains unclear. This topic was assessed in a 10-year prospective study (1989-99) of melioidosis in the tropical north of the Northern Territory of Australia, together with other aspects of the nature of melioidosis. Incubation period from defined inoculating events was previously ascertained as 1-21 (mean 9) days. Of 252 total cases 244 (97%) were considered to be from recent acquisition of B. pseudomallei infection and 8 (3%) were considered to be re-activation from a latent focus. Acute illness occurred in 222 (88%) cases; 30 (12%) cases had chronic illness (symptomatic for > 2 months). Of the 207 patients surviving the initial illness, 27 (13%) had a confirmed relapse (mean time from initial diagnosis of 8 months), with 5 relapsing twice. Of these 32 relapses, 15 (3 fatal) were associated with poor adherence to the eradication therapy antibiotics and 10 (none fatal) were failures of eradication with doxycycline monotherapy. Following initial intensive therapy with ceftazidime or meropenem for at least 14 days, eradication therapy with trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole monotherapy for at least 3 months had been more successful.