Web Zap*Germs Archive

March 24, 2005

Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria Infecting US Soldiers in Iraq

Some US soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are infected with a drug-resistant bacteria called Acinetobacter baumannii.

The germ is encountered in US hospitals, where it has proven resistant to a number of standard antibiotics. In Iraq, however, the bacteria is prevalent in the dirt, so soldiers are being infected through combat wounds, simple injuries, and even through breathing the air.

In a presentation given at the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2004 Annual Meeting, Gregory Deye reported that a significantly high percentage of the soldiers with infected wounds transported to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany tested positive for Acinetobacter.

The Federal News Radio website recently ran a somewhat hysterical account of the growing incidence of Acinetobacter infection among the troops, quoting a journalist who claimed the infections are caused by a "flesh-eating" bacteria. An infectious disease specialist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC (where many wounded US troops are transported for extended treatment and recovery) denied the "flesh-eating" characteristic, but admitted the bacteria are drug-resistant Acinetobacter.

As Acinetobacter was responsible for many arm and leg infections during the Vietnam War, and is encountered regularly in hospitals worldwide, its reappearance in Iraq and Afghanistan is troubling, but it's not the "mystery bacteria" the FNR article claims it to be. It does, however, represent one more difficult situation for the wounded soldiers and those attempting to heal them.


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