Bacteria Battle in the Lungs With CF

Antibiotics may eliminate bacteria diversity which could improve cystic fibrosis symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Antibiotic treatments for cystic fibrosis may be doing more harm than good. A new study finds that current cystic fibrosis treatments may eliminate bacteria that's good for lung development.

Antibiotics may eliminate bacterial diversity in the lungs, which could increase the risk of infections. Drug-resistant bacteria would take the place of bacteria that were destroyed by antibiotics, which would in turn, lead to harder-to-treat infections. The study could lead to a better understanding of how to use antibiotics for cystic fibrosis and what bacteria may promote healthy development in patients.

"Ask your doctor about available cystic fibrosis treatments."

The cystic fibrosis study was led by John J. LiPuma, M.D., from the University of Michigan Health System. Researchers examined six cystic fibrosis patients, three patients had a stable form of the disease and three patients had a faster spreading form of the disease. Mucus samples were collected for eight to nine years and bacteria diversity was measured.

Cystic fibrosis affects around 30,00 Americans and is usually diagnosed in early childhood. Typically, cystic fibrosis produces excess mucus which increases the risk of infection. 

In the lungs, or any part of the body, there are a large and diverse set of bacteria that affect normal and healthy development. Not all bacteria is bad for you and the antibiotics used to treat cystic fibrosis may also eliminate bacteria that would aid in normal development.

Antibiotics are commonly used to treat cystic fibrosis and reducing the number of infections caused by cystic fibrosis. These antibiotics may actually kill off some beneficial bacterial diversity in the lungs and let drug-resistant bacteria take its place.

Researchers discovered, after collecting 126 mucus samples over the course of the study, that some bacteria were eliminated but the total number of bacteria was similar to the number at the start of the study. What this means is that some drug-resistant bacteria took the place of the bacteria that was eliminated by antibiotics. This could lead to harder-to-treat infections in the future.

Researchers could not use bacteria levels to determine possible increases in symptom severity. In the future, the researchers hope to find some other ways that would help predict cystic fibrosis symptom flare-ups.

Additional studies are needed to better understand what bacteria plays a role in the healthy development of the lungs. In the future, new treatments could help preserve bacteria diversity while also treating cystic fibrosis.

No author conflicts were reported.

This study was published in the March edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Review Date: 
March 28, 2012
Last Updated:
March 28, 2012