Acinetobacter is a type of bacteria that is resistant to many types of antibiotics.

It is usually present in wet environments, such as:

  • soil and mud
  • ponds
  • wetlands
  • wastewater
  • fish farms
  • seawater

Healthy people can also carry the Acinetobacter bacteria on their skin, particularly if they work in a healthcare setting. It can survive for a long time on dry surfaces, making it difficult to eliminate.

All types of Acinetobacter bacteria can cause infections in people. In this article, learn more about Acinetobacter infections, including their symptoms, risk factors, and more.

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A person with a blood infection may experience a fever.

One type of Acinetobacter called Acinetobacter baumannii causes the most infections in humans.

This type of Acinetobacter can cause a variety of infections in people, including:

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of infection that the bacteria causes. People may have the following symptoms for each type of infection.

Blood infection:

  • a fever
  • chills
  • vomiting
  • confusion

Urinary tract infection:

  • frequent need to urinate
  • pain or burning sensation when urinating
  • blood in the urine
  • cloudy urine
  • foul smelling urine


  • a fever
  • chills
  • coughing

Wound infection:

  • redness and pus in or around the wound
  • a fever
  • pain around the wound

Symptoms of an Acinetobacter infection may show up anywhere between 4 and 40 days after a person comes into contact with the bacteria, but they usually appear within roughly 12 days.

Acinetobacter may not always produce symptoms. A person can also carry the bacteria in and on their body without it causing any infections.

There are more than 50 species of the Acinetobacter bacteria. Acinetobacter baumannii is the species that causes approximately 80% of reported Acinetobacter infections in humans.

Acinetobacter calcoaceticus and Acinetobacter lwoffii are two other types of the bacteria that commonly cause infections.

Researchers have found the above types of Acinetobacter, as well as a few other types, on vegetables, dairy products, meat, livestock, and human skin. This finding suggests that there are many ways in which humans can come into contact with Acinetobacter bacteria.

These strains of Acinetobacter all have strong antibiotic resistance.

As strains of Acinetobacter are often resistant to many types of commonly prescribed antibiotics, a doctor will decide which treatment is best in each case.

Doctors will test the Acinetobacter bacteria causing the infection in a laboratory. Doing this will allow them to determine which antibiotics may be suitable for fighting it.

A doctor will choose an antibiotic that works effectively against the bacteria, taking into account any potential side effects. They will also consider whether antibiotics will interfere with any other medication that a person is taking.

Most Acinetobacter bacteria are resistant to almost all types of antibiotics, including a powerful group of antibiotics called carbapenems.

If a person has this type of Acinetobacter infection, a doctor may refer to it as a carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter (CRAB) infection.

A doctor may use other antibiotic treatments, such as beta-lactam antibiotics, or other antimicrobial drugs to treat the infection. Researchers are also studying new antibiotics, which may be a treatment option in the future.

Practicing proper hygiene and thoroughly cleaning medical equipment and healthcare environments can help prevent Acinetobacter infections.

Healthcare workers and people receiving treatment can take the following precautions:

  • taking antibiotics only when necessary and exactly as a doctor prescribes
  • cleaning hospital rooms and facilities daily
  • cleaning medical equipment and surfaces rigorously
  • wearing gowns and gloves when treating a person with an Acinetobacter infection

Washing the hands thoroughly is also very important in helping prevent Acinetobacter infections. People should be sure to clean their hands:

  • before preparing or eating food
  • after using the restroom
  • before touching the mouth, nose, or eyes
  • before and after using any medical equipment, particularly tubes and catheters that enter the body
  • before and after dressing wounds or changing bandages
  • after coughing, sneezing, or blowing the nose
  • after touching surfaces in healthcare facilities, such as doorknobs and bedside tables
  • after touching phones or remote controls

People can wash their hands with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

The amount and severity of Acinetobacter infections have increased in relation to the use of medical equipment such as ventilators and catheters, as well as antibiotic treatments.

The highest rates of Acinetobacter infections happen in intensive care units.

People working or receiving treatment in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, are most at risk of getting Acinetobacter infections.

Acinetobacter bacteria can survive for a long time on surfaces and equipment in healthcare settings. People can pass on the bacteria to others through unclean hands, surfaces, or medical equipment.

Certain factors also increase the risk of Acinetobacter infections, including:

  • a weakened immune system
  • chronic lung conditions
  • diabetes
  • using a ventilator
  • using catheters
  • open wounds from surgery
  • being in intensive care
  • long-term hospital stays

People in good health have a very low risk of Acinetobacter infections. In people who are very ill, however, Acinetobacter infections can be life threatening.

Acinetobacter is a type of bacteria that is present in the environment and can live on human skin. If the bacteria enter the body, this can cause infections.

Some types of Acinetobacter cause blood, lung, or urinary tract infections.

Most healthy people have a low risk of Acinetobacter infections. The use of catheters and ventilators can increase the risk, however. People who are in intensive care or have chronic health conditions are also more at risk.

Many types of Acinetobacter are resistant to some available antibiotics, so the type of treatment will depend on the individual case.