Afghanistan Vets' Silent Killer: Fungus in Soil
It gets into their bodies in IED blasts
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Nov 15, 2012 3:23 PM CST
US military doctors treat a wounded Afghan civilian in a hospital at Forward Operating Base Edi in Helmand Province in this Sept 8, 2011 file photo.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

(Newser) – Doctors are struggling to deal with a fungal infection that's complicating the recovery of some of the most severely wounded US veterans. The fungus is thought to exist in the Afghan soil and to infect troops when they're wounded by IEDs, USA Today explains. Often, such explosions result in amputations, but because the fungus is undetectable at first, doctors tend to stop short of removing infected—but seemingly healthy—bits of flesh and bone.

As the fungus does its work, the wounded veterans must often return to the surgeon's table to have more of their limb removed. "Even for somebody that's very experienced, it's hard to tell what's dead and what's alive," one military trauma expert says. So far the organism has infected about 100 troops, killing six of them. New guidelines published this month urge combat doctors to soak wounds in a World War I-era diluted bleach product called Dakins to kill potential fungus.

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Wileybill
Nov 15, 2012 11:44 PM CST
Fungal infections are far more common than most would believe and systematically ignored by clueless and lazy doctors. Most often breathed in and presenting as a common cold or flu symptoms and fought off by the immune system without ever being diagnosed. Several years ago an entire section of a state park in Canada was closed and quarantined due to high fungal levels in the air, but only after several people died- even after seeking medical help as fungal infections do not respond to common respiratory treatments which are designed for viruses like the common cold or influenza. The outbreak was a result of a period of unusual weather ideal for the type of fungus which is always present in the area to grow more rapidly and last longer in the year. Most of these biological contaminates are always present in the soil, trees and water, but in the right conditions become deadly due to increased volume in whatever medium they are naturally found in. We see this not only in the incident in Canada but in the US with the outbreaks of the Hanta Virus, discovered only when an investigator talked to a local Native American who explained this was a cyclical process related to weather conditions. So think twice if you think global warming is just a matter of bothersome weather. Regarding the wounded veterans, these agents can be far more serious when the body is traumatized and the contaminate is introduced directly into the bloodstream. It also makes me wander if perhaps these fungus (which are rarely ever checked for) may be related to the infamous "Gulf War Syndrome" which has been making so many troops ill upon returning home.
RAD45
Nov 15, 2012 11:02 PM CST
Considering we've been in Afghanistan for more than a decade and this "fungus" problem is just now being discovered... could it be there's some biological warfare going on with the Taliban? How is it there was no "fungus" among the Russian troops, no fungus reported after we invaded after 9-11, but now that we're pulling troops out there's a strange fungus attacking severely wounded soldiers? The old saying applies, when you investigate, and all the probable theories are disproved, then the answer is the theory that's left no matter how improbable it might seem. Just a little bit of whatever it is dribbled onto part of an IED and you have extremely low-level biological warfare... just the kind of weapon that would be useable and appeal to the Taliban and their allies.
Seth_Meyers
Nov 15, 2012 9:31 PM CST
Meanwhile, we've got 5,000,000 addicts and another 650,000 INNOCENT people (who breathed toxic tobacco smoke) being killed EVERY YEAR, around the world, becuase of the ILLEGAL TOBACCO DRUG! BAN THE ILLEGAL TOBACCO DRUG, NOW AND PROSECUTE THE CRIMINAL TOBACCO PUSHERS, TOO! Stupid media! If the "fungal infection" were caused by the ILLEGAL TOBACCO DRUG, they'd never mention a WORD about it!