Home From Iraq: Acinetobacter Baumannii
Steve Silberman over at Wired reported quite a story in February, 2007: The Invisible Enemy. Advances in trauma care and frontline medicine is saving lives in Iraq. Injured troops are transported to the largest American military hospital in Europe - Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. After being stabilized there, the injured are evacuated to the US to recuperate - and the survival rate for this war is 9:10.
Lurking in battle wounds is a lethal pathogen that is the defeat of many of these survivors - an opportunistic pathogen, the multiple drug-resistant acinetobacter baumannii. Mr. Silberman reported 700 US military deaths from the pathogen, now the bacteria has invaded civilian community hospitals. "It preys on the weakest of the weak and the sickest of the sick...slipping into the body through open wounds, catheters, and breathing tubes...it doesn't get a lot of respect because it's not...bumping off normal, healthy, people..." Investigators have concluded that the state-of-the-art medical centers themselves are breeding grounds for the superbugs, and the actual source of contamination - not Iraq and unsanitary conditions or the soil or rainwater or any other ideas.
Independent contractors like Merlin Clark are not immune. His wife Marcie created the website, www.acinetobacter.org. A. Baumannii isn't the only superbug we need to worry about. There is a case of a soldier stationed in Germany who died of epiglotitis due to a bacterial infection. Methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)producing the toxin Panton-Valentine leukocidin(PVL) is another. Leishmaniasis is plaguing Afghanistan. Plus a newly recognized Bartonella species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Klebsiella pneumoniae.
Three years ago, in July 2004, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) sent a white paper, Bad Bugs, No Drugs: As Antibiotic Discovery Stagnates...A Public Health Crisis Brews to Congress. They want a Commission to Prioritize Antimicrobial Discovery. They want "wild-card patent extension". They want new funding for antibiotic R&D. They keep telling us resistance to the antimicrobials is on the rise. They report the Acinetobacter problem in soldiers and civilians stationed in Iraq right in the paper(p13). The IDSA reports problems with Salmonellosis, tuberculosis, MRSA in athletes, the economic burden of these problems, the lack of interest in antibiotic research by pharmaceutical companies (5 new antibiotics of 506 new drugs in the pipeline), medical vs. market realities, action items for Congress.
Thank you Google Images for use of Acinetobacter Outbreak map from Bioquell