McKenna on A. baumanii, the latest resistant bug

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

On her Superbug blog, AHCJ board member Maryn McKenna works her explanatory magic on Acinetobacter baumanii, a drug-resistant bug whose profile (and incidence) is, in McKenna’s words, “rocketing.”

A. baumanii is a nasty bug, causing not just wound infections but pneumonia, urinary tract infections, meningitis and bacteremia. Even more nasty, it collects resistance factors like baseball cards, and is commonly resistant to at least 4 antibiotic classes.

To make the outlook even bleaker, the antibiotic development pipeline for A. baumanii‘s class of bacteria has dried up and only super-toxic colistin can take out the nastiest strains of the bacteria. It looks like A. baumanii, whose resistant strains have spread explosively in the past decade, has a particular knack for spreading resistance.

The only real hope for containing A. baumanii, McKenna writes, may be cooperation between all the different local institutions in the fragmented American medical system.

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