Since discovered in wounds of military troops returning from Iraq, A. baumannii has been increasingly seen in healthcare settings. It does not cause infection in otherwise healthy people, but when it infects patients who are already very sick, often in the intensive care unit, it can exacerbate a trajectory to death.
Health experts say it's almost impossible to blame Ab-XDR as the ultimate cause of death. But many of the patients who become infected die than uninfected patients with similar diagnoses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, this strain of bacteria is an increasing nosocomial threat to patients in healthcare settings, "particularly in intensive care units."
"Treatment of infections attributed to A. baumannii can be difficult because the organism has intrinsic resistance to certain antimicrobial agents and has acquired resistance to many others," the report says.
"In health-care settings, colonized and infected patients are often the sources of A. baumannii infections; however, the ability of the organism to survive for prolonged periods on environmental surfaces also has contributed to protracted outbreaks in these settings."
Cathryn Murphy, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the organization holding the annual meeting where Wallace presented her report, praised Methodist Dallas for its rapid response.
"With outbreaks of pan-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and other multi-drug resistant organisms in the rise, it is absolutely essential that infection prevention departments be fully staffed and adequately resourced," she said.
"Methodist Dallas Medical Center was proactive in their approach, responding rapidly and mobilizing an interdisciplinary team to control the outbreak. The experiences of infection preventionists such as Ms. Wallace serve as practical guidance for healthcare professionals combating multi-drug resistant pathogens. Their experience is a powerful reminder that aggressive infection prevention programs are required to protect patients and save lives."
This is all scary stuff. But it's reassuring to know that there are hospitals like Methodist Dallas that are leading the way to prevent the spread of these potentially deadly infections.