- ATLANTA (Reuters) - An expectedly
high number of U.S. soldiers injured in the Middle East and Afghanistan
are testing positive for a rare, hard-to-treat blood infection in military
hospitals, Army doctors reported on Thursday.
- A total of 102 soldiers were found to be infected with
the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii. The infections occurred among soldiers
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Landstuhl Regional Medical
Center in Germany and three other sites between Jan. 1, 2002, and Aug.
- Although it was not known where the soldiers contracted
the infections, the Army said the recent surge highlighted a need to improve
infection-control in military hospitals.
- Eighty-five of the bloodstream infections occurred among
soldiers serving in Iraq, the area around Kuwait and Afghanistan, the U.S.
Army said in a report published on Thursday by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
- Military hospitals typically see about one case per year.
- Army investigators said they did not know whether the
soldiers contracted the infections on the battlefield, during medical treatment
on the front line or following evacuation to Walter Reed, Landstuhl and
other military medical locations.
- "Although some of the patients identified in this
report had evidence of bloodstream infections at the time of admission
to military medical facilities, whether the infections were acquired from
environmental sources in the field or during treatment at other military
medical facilities is unknown," the Army said.
- A. baumannii, which is found in water and soil and resistant
to many types of antibiotics, surfaces occasionally in hospitals, often
spread among patients in intensive care units.
- The infection was also found in soldiers with traumatic
injuries to their arms, legs and extremities during the Vietnam War.
- Spread of the infection is often halted when health-care
workers wash their hands and those of their patients with alcohol swabs,
actively monitor those with wounds to the extremities and promptly identify
- Development of better drugs also is needed to help contain
future outbreaks of the infection, Army officials said. In some cases,
the only effective antibiotic is colistin, an older drug that is rarely
prescribed today because of its high toxicity.
- Health-care providers in the United States are urged
to watch for A. baumannii infections among soldiers who have been recently
treated at military hospitals, especially those who were in intensive care
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