patients' ward at Antoni Infectious Disease Hospital in Kabul.

The US defeated Kabul superbugs in its military, but locals still struggle

Updated 12:14 AM ET, Tue November 6, 2018

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This story was investigated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and edited and published in partnership with CNN.

Kandahar, Afghanistan (CNN)As the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq evolved, military doctors grappling to treat soldiers maimed by roadside bombs began facing another challenge: Their patients were developing almost incurable, multidrug-resistant infections in their wounds. They couldn't be treated with the usual antibiotics the doctors had on hand.

US Army Col. Clinton Murray, 48, an infectious-diseases doctor, was deployed to the region four times between 2003 and 2015, working in military hospitals and clinics across the country.
He said that drug-resistant or "superbug" infections meant some soldiers had problems for years after their initial life-altering injuries. When common antibiotics failed, higher doses of antibiotics, new drug combinations or alternative drugs with severe side effects were tried, but many had repeat and prolonged infections. Others had to undergo extra surgeries or amputations to stop the bacteria from spreading further.
The US Army soon realized that drug resistance was a serious problem and, from 2009, introduced programs to reduce drug resistance in its military hospitals -- but the problem was just as bad, if not worse, in nearby civilian hospitals.
When things got really bad for the Army, soldiers were evacuated to two US hospitals. One was Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where Murray also ran the infectious-diseases department.
Civilians, however, had fewer resources and no way out.
    Afghan citizens are dying because of the war, and drug resistance will mean even more deaths, said Dr. Nasimullah Bawar, head of health programme at BRAC Afghanistan, a nongovernmental organization providing drugs and maternity, child health, immunization, nutrition, mental health and malaria and TB-control services in four provinces.
    Bawar compares superbugs to another scourge, the Islamic State or Daesh, because it will disrupt the country and kill many citizens: "This is going to be another Daesh, I can say."
    Making the situation even tougher is 40 years of conflict.

    A military struggle against 'Iraqibacter'

    Military doctors started noticing an influx of patients with multidrug-resistant infections from 2003, two years after the Afghanistan wa