Healthy Living

Research Reveals Cystic Fibrosis Severity Is Linked to Fungus

These researchers might've found the key to treatment

A recent study found that an infection caused by Mycobacterium abscessus complex (MABSC) a group of multi-drug resistant nontuberculous mycobacteria that trigger rather aggressive and difficult to treat lung infections, is a growing threat among patients with underlying lung diseases, such as CF.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, suggests that current airway cleaning techniques may not be effective in eliminating the bacterium, which appears to be contagious and speeds up inflammation within the lungs. “This mycobacterium can cause very serious infections that are extremely challenging to treat, requiring combination treatment with multiple antibiotics for 18 months or longer. The bug initially seems to have entered the patient population from the environment, but we think it has recently evolved to become capable of jumping from patient to patient, getting more virulent as it does so,” said Andres Floto, professor from the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge.

The research team conducted gene sequencing on over 1000 mycobacteria from 517 patients with CF being treated at centers across the United States, Europe and Australia. Their findings revealed that a majority of the patients with CF had contagious forms of the bacterium. “We show that the majority of M. abscessus infections are acquired through transmission, potentially via fomites [infected objects] and aerosols, of recently emerged dominant circulating clones that have spread globally. We demonstrate that these clones are associated with worse clinical outcomes, show increased virulence … and thus represent an urgent international infection challenge,” wrote the researchers.