Acinetobacter Infections

Commonality is common
Commonality is uncommon
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Acinetobacter Infections


Acinetobacter is a genus of bacteria of which there are at least 25 different species. They are quite common in nature, and often dwell in soil, water and sewerage.

Acinetobacter baumannii is the species most commonly associated with hospital outbreaks, accounting for around 80% of infections. It is particularly problematic due to its ability to survive on dry surfaces and human skin, as well as its resistance against a number of cleaning agents and antibiotics.

Although they are rare, infections caused by Acinetobacter species are very severe. They can give rise to pneumonia, as well as infections of:

·         The skin;

·         The urinary tract;

·         Any organ system – in particular, the respiratory system;

·         The bloodstream; and

·         Open wounds.



Usually, healthy individuals are not susceptible to illness due to colonization of Acinetobacter bacteria. Infection occurs primarily in those whose health is compromised by a form of pre-existing illness.

Risk factors for Acinetobacter infections include:

·         Being of poor health and/or in a healthcare setting;

·         Undergoing invasive surgical procedures;

·         Using artificial respiration methods; and

·         Receipt of blood/organ transplants.

Open wounds exposed to dirt or water containing Acinetobacter organisms can easily become contaminated. The bacteria can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact between individuals, or contact with contaminated surfaces in a number of healthcare environments.



The symptoms of Acinetobacter infection vary between individuals, but have been known to include:

·         Pneumonia;

·         Serious blood or wound infections;

·         Decreased oxygen content in the blood; and

·         Increased respiratory and/or heart rate.



Acinetobacter organisms are innately resistant to a large number of multi-drug treatments and antibiotics, rendering the infections caused difficult to treat. Further, the extent of their resistance to these substances varies between species.

For this reason, doctors will identify and prescribe special treatment options for Acinetobacter infections on an individual basis.

Prevention is generally regarded as the best way to control outbreaks of Acinetobacter infections. Preventative measures recommended for those in contact with infected patients include:

·         Regular, thorough washing of hands; and

·         Wearing of relevant protective garments, such as gowns and gloves.

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