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New twist on old medical technology may prevent amputations
Date:1/27/2009

Old technologies, bone cement and a well known antibiotic, may effectively fight an emerging infection in soldiers with compound bone fractures, according to a study published online today in the Journal of Orthopedic Research. An urgent search for solutions is underway as 20,000 additional American soldiers head for Afghanistan, and as evidence emerges that the infection studied may set the stage for more dangerous infections that can lead to amputation.

Osteomyelitis is (OM) a bone infection caused by various bacteria, and usually occurs in severe fractures when bone is exposed to open air. Although Acinetobacter baumannii rarely causes OM in the United States, it is very prevalent in the Middle East, and is now present in more than 30 percent of soldiers recovering from open fractures in field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Past studies have established that one in four severe war wounds in Iraq is a fracture, more than 80 percent of which are open, where the bone is exposed to airborne bacteria.

Not common in the United States and not potentially fatal, A. baumannii OM had been largely ignored until recently by physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, which focuses on life-threatening infections that affect millions, not hundreds. Then military outbreaks of the infection started among American soldiers returning from Iraq in 2003, with the number of A. baumannii OM infections seen in field hospitals, and in stateside facilities receiving injured soldiers, growing. At the same time, data began to emerge from hospitals treating soldiers suggesting that easily contracted A. baumannii may be arriving first at the fracture site and "priming" it so that it becomes more vulnerable to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which recently surpassed HIV as the most deadly pathogen in the United States despite nearly universal use of the best available antibiotics.

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Contact: Greg Williams
Greg_Williams@urmc.rochester.edu
585-273-1757
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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