Troops arriving home from Iraq and Afghanistan have been carrying a mysterious, deadly bacteria, according to a new magazine report.
Doctors have linked the bacterium acinetobacter baumannii to at least seven deaths, as well as to loss of limbs and other severe ailments, according to the report, which found the bacterium has spread quickly since the war in Afghanistan began in the fall of 2001
Acinetobacter baumannii has been found in military hospitals in Germany, the Washington, D.C., area and Texas -- the primary destinations of wounded service members from the two war zones. And it has now spread to civilians, according to the report.
"The outbreak began traveling with patients or nonpatients from Iraq all the way back to Walter Reed," said Dr. Rox Anderson at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Timothy Endy, a retired Army colonel now teaching infectious disease medicine at the Upstate Medical University of the State University of New York, said the outbreak might be the largest of its kind to spread through hospitals in history.
Doctors quoted in the magazine article agreed. "Of the infectious disease problems that come out of the conflict, it is the most important complication we've seen," Dr. Glenn Wortmann, acting chief of infectious disease at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said in the February issue of Proceedings, published by the U.S. Naval Institute, a professional organization focused on naval issues.
The report was released to subscribers of the magazine this week.