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August 3, 2005 12:21 AM   Subscribe

W. M. D.'s? There's been a lot of talk going on about bacteria infections in Iraq. Is it just common bacteria, or is the ground spoiled?
posted by Balisong (12 comments total)

History would suggest Acinetobacter is a common organism that afflicts soldiers who sustain ground combat wounds:

During the Vietnam War, this bacterium was also the most common microorganism of its type (gram-negative bacteria) in traumatic wounds of the arms and legs, suggesting that environmental contamination of wounds is the likely source of the infection.

Soldiers work and live in conditions that place serious demands on their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to common infectious agents that healthy, unstressed people are generally not vulnerable to.

Further, the multi-antibiotic resistant strain one of your links refers to appears to have affected patients in northern France, not Iraq:

The possible importation of multi-resistant A. baumannii from the conflict in Iraq in October has also been highlighted (4). Detailed investigations by the HPA Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre have subsequently shown little direct importation from Iraq or subsequent transmission, with most of the multi-resistant strains unlinked to repatriated causalities, and with several of the strains having been in circulation from before the 2003 conflict.

All the evidence so far shows Bush was lying about WMDs. If this story is trumped up in the news as vindication of his lies, I'd be even more disappointed in the mainstream media than I am already. /opinion
posted by Rothko at 12:52 AM on August 3, 2005

Tomorrow, someone in Iraq will get a cold or cough or something, and the next thing you know, the Bush administration and its friends in the media will be touting it as proof there was WMD in Iraq.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:04 AM on August 3, 2005

The a. baumannii infections are also significant, in that a very significant percentage -- about 40% -- of such cases are lethal. That said, there haven't been any deaths reported in the OIF casualty figures that indicate a soldier who died of either a. baumannii or any other infectious disease contracted as a result of wounds recieved in Iraq or Afghanistan. Infact, based on the mortality rate, there haven't been enough reported OIF deaths at places like Landstuhl to even begin to account for such diseases, even though approximately 20,000 soldiers have been medevac'ced with wounds.

In other words, there's a very strong, almost statistically damning degree of evidence now which suggests that those who die or are wounded by opportunistic diseases in Iraq or Afghanistan are simply not counted in the war's casualty figures, even though they clearly would not have died if it weren't for injuries sustained while serving in harm's way.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:07 AM on August 3, 2005

In other words, there's a very strong, almost statistically damning degree of evidence now which suggests that those who die or are wounded by opportunistic diseases in Iraq or Afghanistan are simply not counted in the war's casualty figures, even though they clearly would not have died if it weren't for injuries sustained while serving in harm's way

Further evidence in mind that this is not the result of WMDs — for if soldiers were reported dying en masse from Saddam's pre-Gulf War II opportunisitc biological agents, the opportunisitic weasels in the Bush administration would squeeze every ounce of pus out of this as justification for its illegal war.
posted by Rothko at 1:15 AM on August 3, 2005

The problem is in Afghanistan as well, according to the JAMA article. Are there WMD's there, too? No. "This bacterium is common in both water and soil, says the first link. I hope a lonkage to WMD via misinterpretation of the scientific evidence doesn't become a meme.
posted by Cassford at 2:56 AM on August 3, 2005

Not to interrupt your tinfoil extravaganza, but this post is complete rubbish. I've been treating resistant acenitobacter infections long before getting into our current quagmire, and it makes for a pretty crummy biological weapon.
posted by drpynchon at 5:26 AM on August 3, 2005

So saddams horrible "WMD" results in a handfull of sick people 3 years after he's hurtled from power?

Dosn't sound very usefull to me.
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on August 3, 2005

Apparently "a lot of talk" translates to "I haven't heard about it in two and a half years until this one front page post on MeFi"...

There's been a lot more talk about sand flies and leishmaniasis (sp?). I'm sure it's that cursed Saddam who genetically engineered those flies!
posted by clevershark at 8:36 AM on August 3, 2005

insomnia_lj: I'm not certain where you get than from the link. The link you refer to talks about the Acinetobacter baumannii mortality for patients in a critical care unit:

"During a 4-month period (August–December 2004), in a 30-bed multidisciplinary ICU, patients who developed A. baumannii bacteremia and control patients without microbiological evidence of bacteremia were prospectively studied."

You can't extrapolate from this sample to all A. baumannii infections.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:02 AM on August 3, 2005

The notion that these infections is evidence of WMDs is uninformed bullshit. I was one of the first reporters to mention these infections in the American press, in an article called The Painful Truth in Wired last February:

The fate of an arm or leg often depended on some twist of circumstance, such as the decision to dangle an elbow out the window while driving in the triple-digit heat. The soldiers' injuries were aggravated by strange infections. When a bomb detonates under a Humvee, septic muck from the chassis and road surface - carrying native strains of bacteria for which US troops have no resistance - is blown deep into the ravaged tissue.

I was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to research my article, where the bacteria that the staff was casually calling "Iraqibacter" was running rampant in the wounds of returning soldiers. I specifically asked about the WMD angle, and the doctors and nurses at WRAMC made it very clear that if Iraqi soliders were fighting a war on American soil, they would be facing the same problem of being infected with strains of ambient bacteria to which they had no resistance.

Later in the article, I describe the surreal experience of being in a small hospital room with a wounded soldier when John McCain and Don Imus walked in. As soon as they left the room, a member of their entourage whipped out a bottle of hand sanitizer, which was standard practice at WRAMC because of this bacteria.
posted by digaman at 11:20 AM on August 3, 2005

So, the ground and water have WMD's? Are the ground and water terrorists now?
posted by odinsdream at 11:39 AM on August 3, 2005

They are when you're fighting a war of occupation.
posted by digaman at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2005

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