Infectious diseases during wartime

Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2005 Oct;18(5):395-9. doi: 10.1097/01.qco.0000182102.50430.2c.


Purpose of review: The infectious disease challenges of war include pathogens endemic to the geographic area of operations as well as wound infections with common environmental microorganisms. This review summarizes papers, unpublished data and personal communications from 2004-2005 pertaining to infectious diseases during war with a focus on the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recent findings: To date, there have been several hundred cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis and five cases of visceral leishmaniasis among US military personnel serving in southwest Asia. There have been reports of malaria in soldiers serving in Afghanistan and an outbreak of acute eosinophilic pneumonia among soldiers serving in or near Iraq. Diarrheal illness is a well-known threat to military operations and remains problematic for combatants throughout the theater of operations. Infectious complications caused by multiply drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii have been particularly challenging for healthcare providers managing the wounded evacuated from Iraq. We are now facing outbreaks of nosocomial infection with this pathogen in military treatment facilities in Europe and the USA.

Summary: Historically, infectious diseases have had significant impact on the conduct of military operations, and the conflict in southwest Asia is no exception. Physicians caring for returning military personnel should be aware of the diseases prevalent in this campaign, particularly cutaneous leishmaniasis and infections with multiply drug-resistant A. baumannii.

MeSH terms

  • Afghanistan
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Military Personnel*
  • Warfare*