In this study, medical records of all casualties admitted to our hospital following the Marmara earthquake, which struck northwest Turkey and resulted in the destruction of several towns in the Marmara region, were evaluated retrospectively. The time buried under the rubble, demographic data, type of medical and surgical therapies performed, type of injury and data on infection were analysed. Between 17 August and 25 September 1999, 630 trauma victims were received at our hospital and 532 (84%) of them were hospitalized. The mean age of hospitalized patients (312 males, 220 females) was 32 years (2-90 years). Two hundred and twenty patients were hospitalized for more than 48 h. Forty-one of them (18.6%) had 43 hospital-acquired infection (HAI) episodes, which were mostly wound infections (46.5%). A total of 143 culture specimens was collected and 48 yielded the following potential pathogens: 15 Acinetobacter baumanii (31.2%), nine Staphylococcus aureus (18.7%), seven Pseudomonas aeruginosa (14.6%), six Escherichia coli (12.5%), six Klebsiella pneumoniae (12.5%), two Stenotrophomonas maltophilia (4.2%) and three various Pseudomonas spp. (6.3%). All S. aureus strains were found to be resistant to methicillin in vitro. Two strains of A. baumannii and one P. aeruginosa were found to be resistant to all antimicrobials including carbapenems. Fifty-three victims died (10%) and 36 of those died during the first 48 h because of severe injuries and multi-organ failure. After 48 h of hospitalization, the mortality rate was significantly higher in those patients with HAI (14/41) than those without (3/179) (34.1% vs. 1.7%, P < 0.05). In conclusion, trauma is the significant factor associated with HAI and a high incidence of Acinetobacter strains was responsible for HAI in trauma patients. (C) 2002 The Hospital Infection Society.