Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Enemy Action

Defense Tech reports that the DoD has been lying about the cause of death in cases where soldiers were killed by bacterial infections linked to combat hospitals:

"For a long time, the DoD claimed that the bacteria... was a naturally occurring organism in the Iraqi soil that infected soldiers when they were wounded by IEDs," Silberman tels Defense Tech. "As you'll see, this is not the case, and the DoD has known the true source of the infections -- the combat support hospitals in Iraq themselves -- for over a year and a half."

One marine's mom was told her son died of "injuries as a result of enemy action." Turned out, it was Acinetobacter, instead.
A. baumannii is resistant to a broad spectrum of antibiotics, and has been plaguing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Indeed, it seems to have an affinity for war zones; the CDC claims that during the Vietnam War, "A. baumannii was reported to be the most common gram-negative bacillus recovered from traumatic injuries to extremities."

The bacterium can live on surfaces for weeks, which means that it can spread from former patients to incoming ones. And from hospitals in Iraq to hospitals in America:
About 240 cases have been treated at Army hospitals since 2003, Colonel Petruccelli said. Hospitals like Walter Reed now see 6 to 12 infected soldiers a month; before 2003 they had no more than one a month.
Back in September, a congressional study found that the Iraq War was costing the United States $2 billion per week. I can't help wondering what that money might accomplish if it were allocated to antibiotic research.

UPDATE: For more details, check out The Invisible Enemy by Steve Silberman, which was the source for the DT post.


Steve Silberman said...

Sorry to just jump in here (the miracle of search engines!), but the DefenseTech post, which I much appreciated, was a link to an in-depth story I just published in Wired magazine that gives much more context to this:

The Invisible Enemy

Thanks for your interest.

Phila said...

Thanks, Steve! I'll put a link to it up top, as well.

And thanks for your reporting, too.

Phila said...

Fixed it...but Blogger's not updating properly. Should show up soon...

juniper pearl said...

a while back there were some reports of american families being told their sons had died of "injuries as a result of enemy action"--i think the letters specified that they had been killed by insurgents--when in actuality they had been killed by things like weapons firing accidentally or coalition forces mistaking them for the enemy. i wondered then if "enemy action" was the default on a cause-of-death form letter--and i guess i still wonder.

bacteria will only get smarter and stronger; the earth's the most determined insurgent there is.