Keeping Hospitals as Pristine as Possible

A. baumannii contamination has been found on hospital curtains, door handles, mops and medical equipment, where the hardy organism can survive for days. Until new drugs are developed to treat the bug, prevention is the best medicine.

As with many other infections, steps to block the spread of Acinetobacter include isolating patients who show signs of infections, as well as washing hands and wearing gowns and gloves when in contact with infected patients. The military is increasingly emphasizing infection control, says Army infectious disease expert Clinton Murray, M.D.—in the field, throughout the process of evacuating wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in facilities in Germany and the United States.

Despite wartime challenges, such as achieving high standards of cleanliness under exigent battlefield circumstances, the efforts seem to be paying off. Says Murray of Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, "I don’t know that we can get nosocomial [hospital-acquired] infections down to zero, but we have gotten them down to reasonable levels."