Burkholderia pseudomallei is a potential bioterror agent and the causative agent of melioidosis, a severe disease that is endemic in areas of Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. Infection is often associated with bacterial dissemination to distant sites, and there are many possible disease manifestations, with melioidosis septic shock being the most severe. Eradication of the organism following infection is difficult, with a slow fever-clearance time, the need for prolonged antibiotic therapy and a high rate of relapse if therapy is not completed. Mortality from melioidosis septic shock remains high despite appropriate antimicrobial therapy. Prevention of disease and a reduction in mortality and the rate of relapse are priority areas for future research efforts. Studying how the disease is acquired and the host-pathogen interactions involved will underpin these efforts; this review presents an overview of current knowledge in these areas, highlighting key topics for evaluation.