What is Acinetobacter?

Acinetobacter species are gram negative aerobic bacilli that are ubiquitous in fresh water and soil environments. Additionally, these bacteria are a part of normal skin flora and may colonize the oral cavity, the respiratory tract, and the intestinal tract. At least 23 species of Acinetobacter have been associated with human disease, but some of these species are unnamed. Acinetobacter specie impose a particular risk to immunocompromised patients and those with preexisting conditions. Common routes of bacterial transmission include contaminated medical devices such as respirators, intubations, and ventilation devices.

What are the most common pathogenic species of Acinebactor?

The species of Acinetobacter that have been associated with human infection and disease include: 

  • A. baumannii complex; A. baumannii and A. calcoaceticus 
  • A. baumannii accounts for approximately 80% of reported infections 
  • A. lwoffi 
  • A. johnsonii 
  • A. ursingii 
  • A. schindleri 

 Where are Acinetobacter found?

Acinetobacter species can live in both moist and dry environments and are found in:

  • Fresh water
  • Soil
  • Hospital water distribution systems
  • Contaminated medical devices such as respirators, ventilators, catheters, and medical tools
  • Contaminated surfaces in a hospital environment

Who is at risk for Acinetobacter infection?

Acinetobacter species are generally considered nonpathogenic to healthy individuals. Those with preexisting conditions or patients in high risk hospital units are most likely to acquire infection.

What are the symptoms of bacterial infection?

Acinetobacter species can cause infection in any part of the human body. Infections include:

  • Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia
  • Skin or wound infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bacteremia
  • Meningitis

How is bacterial infection diagnosed?

As a common environmental bacterium, isolation of Acinetobacter species can represent colonization, but does not always indicate infection. Samples collected from the infected site are cultured and identified in the lab through biological tests.

What is the treatment for Acinetobacter species infection?

Acinetobacter species have high rates of resistance to many different classes of antibiotics. Additionally, these bacteria have the ability to develop an antibiotic resistance to new antibiotics. Carbapenems like imipenem have shown to be effective for treatment. ß-lactam antimicrobial agents can also be used in combination with other antibiotics. Multi-drug resistant strains have also shown susceptibility to polymyxins.


  • Multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter Infection Mortality Rate and Length of Hospitalization. Sunenshine RH et al. Emerg Infect Dis 13(1): 2007 
  • Acinetobacter Infections in Healthcare Settings (CDC)

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legalor medical advice. You should contact your physician or attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.