The infection-control staff at Jackson Health System in Miami tried every strategy they could think of to stop the spread of the deadly bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii, but nothing worked.
For nearly two decades, the number of cases of carbapenem-resistant A baumannii, a hard-to-treat organism that causes many types of hospital-acquired infections, had remained consistent at the 1,570-bed public hospital. It held steady even during 2009 and 2010, after the hospital instituted an aggressive bundle of targeted interventions including more stringent disinfection practices, weekly surveillance cultures and isolation of patients who tested positive.
Infections from A baumannii occur primarily in already-fragile intensive-care patients. All-cause mortality rates among patients colonized with the bacterium can be as high as 40%. Concern about such organisms is increasing as federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sound the alarm about the dangers of inappropriate antibiotic use and the resulting growth of antibiotic resistance.