|To a healthy person, Acinetobacter (ass-in-ee-toe-back-ter) poses little threat. It's a group of bacteria commonly found in soil and water, on the skin of healthy people, and particularly in the GI tract. But for very ill patients on ventilators or those with a prolonged hospital stay, weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, diabetes or open wounds, the bacteria can be deadly – especially since it's becoming resistant to many of the commonly prescribed antibiotics used to treat these infections.
Outbreaks of Acinetobacter infections typically occur in intensive care units and health care settings housing very ill patients. The infections are rarely found outside of the health care setting.
Acinetobacter causes a variety of diseases, ranging from pneumonia to serious blood or wound infections. The symptoms vary depending on the disease. The bacteria are colonized on some people's skin, but don't really seem to cause any problems that way. And it's been shown to be in some people's intestinal tracts. But trying to determine the impact the bacteria have on patients is a major focus of research, some of which is occurring at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. continued..
WRITTEN BY NANCY HUMPHREY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANA JOHNSON