Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another emerging superbug

Acinetobacter baumannii is probably not a name many would associate with the current lot of 'superbugs' such as methicilling resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). As it turns out, this bacterium, normally content to live in soil and water is becoming a considerable threat to those in hospitals. In particular the bacterium is good at infecting people in the intensive care ward and unfortunately has a fairly high rate of infection, up to 40%. Additionally, the bug appears to be fairly wide spread having been noticed infecting US army soldiers to being found in numerous hospitals in London.

Once again it's a familiar story. Overuse of antibiotics encourages the development and maintenance of resistance in A. baumannii, which appears to be both extremely good at aquiring new resistance and appears to also bring existing resistance mechanisms (enzymes) with it. Additionally, unlike other superbugs like MRSA, A. baumannii doesn't tend to be easily controlled by hygeine practices as it's quite capable of living on plastics or other surfaces that are normally hostile to other bacteria.

There is one thing to be thankful for however, A. baumannii unlike MRSA isn't well adapted to living in the community and out of the hospital. Additionally, it doesn't have the virulence characteristics needed to cause infections in healthy non-immunocompromised people, which is largely the reason this has become known from hospitals where the highest numbers of immunocompromised people would be found.