Thursday, May 10, 2007

Perspective: Resilient Infections Worry Military Doctors

On August 21, 2004 Jonathan Gadsen was severely wounded by an I.E.D. After undergoing arduous medical care he began to show improvement and was transferred to a veterans hospital. On October 17, the marine was given a day pass to accompany his mother to Wal-Mart. Hours after returning to the hospital, his condition deteriorated rapidly. Gadsden had a seizure and a heart attack the next day. The neurology team discovered that his cerebrum and cerebellum had swelled up overnight, and he was clinically brain-dead. His family and minister were called to the hospital, and on October 22 he was taken off life support, another victim of an acinetobacter infection in Iraq.

Like most patients in the infectious disease ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Jon Harris has an "A" written next to his name on the white board by the nursing desk. The 23-year-old Army specialist had a leg amputated below the knee after a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

But the capital letter indicates another medical problem that increasingly worries military doctors -- an infection from a resilient bug known as Acinetobacter.

Harris, who arrived at Walter Reed on April 10, said he is convinced he picked up the infection when he fell to the ground in the attack. "I got dirty from being dropped six to seven feet from the truck," the soldier from Missouri said one recent day.

However, military doctors say they don't know exactly what's causing infections such as the one Harris has, and they are racing to find effective treatments.

Read the rest at the Washington Post