Web Zap*Germs Archive

August 04, 2005

Update on Acinetobacter Infections in US Soldiers in Iraq

In March 2005 I posted about a "mystery" infection being suffered by US personnel in Iraq, which turned out to be a hardy variety of the soil-based Acinetobacter baumannii. Forbes has a new article that provides additional detail on how US military hospitals are dealing with these continuing infections.

At least 280 US troops have tested positive for the bacteria, and five very ill soldiers have died of Acinetobacter infections. Testing for Acinetobacter among wounded returning stateside has become commonplace, as has isolating those who test positive to the Acinetobacter bug. Doctors are relying on three antibiotics to treat stubborn infections, each of which can produce serious side effects:
Besides imipenem, which carries a risk of seizure, two other drugs have worked. Another is amikacin, which does not work for bone infections and has not been effective against some strains of the bacteria. A third is colistin, an antibiotic doctors had stopped using because of its toxic effects on the kidneys.

"It is a scary thing about any drug-resistant bacteria, when you grow it for the very first time out of a patient and you've only got three antibiotics, one so old that we had to bring it back from the archives," says Col. Joel Fishbain, chairman of the infection-control committee at Walter Reed [Medical Center in Washington, DC].


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