Magazine article Science News

Moving Up the Charts: Drug-Resistant Bug Invades Military, Civilian Hospitals

Magazine article Science News

Moving Up the Charts: Drug-Resistant Bug Invades Military, Civilian Hospitals

Article excerpt

A common bacterium is becoming more virulent and drug resistant in hospitals. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) now ranks Acinetobacter baumannii on its list of "bad bugs" alongside two perennial chart toppers, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The reported cases of nasty A. baumannii Infections "may be just the tip of the iceberg; says Robert Bonomo of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "I don't think the statistics ... do justice to the current problem. I hear people saying, 'It's all over my hospital.'"

Some strains of the bug resist nearly all antibacterial drugs, forcing physicians to rely on colistin, an antibiotic that fell out of favor in the 1970s after reports that it caused kidney damage. "We're resurrecting colistin from antiquity; says physician Michael Zapor of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But he adds that "it's only a matter of time before we lose [it], too"

At an IDSA meeting in San Diego last week, Zapor reported a spike in A. baumannii infections among soldiers at Walter Reed who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2002, the hospital saw only 10 such infections, but in 2004, 279 wounded soldiers contracted the bug. By 2006, with more-stringent infection-control procedures in place, the number of cases dropped to 177. Zapor says that the hospital spent more than $1 million on intravenous antibiotics in 2006, up from $400,000 in 2000.

Bonomo described the case of a soldier with a blast wound infected by a strain of A. …

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