- Patients with cystic fibrosis are susceptible to repeated lung infections or pneumonia
- Scientists have found that a drug-resistant mycobacterium Mycobacterium abscessus is extremely virulent and can cause serious lung infection in cystic fibrosis patients
- The Mycobacterium spreads through the air and contaminated surfaces
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have highlighted the danger of people with cystic fibrosis all over the world developing a drug-resistant infection with an organism called Mycobacterium abscessus. Their study published in Science.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the movement of salt through cells and results in the formation of thick secretions. The secretions cause blocks in several organs especially the lungs, the pancreas and the reproductive system.
The secretions in the lungs provide an ideal environment for the growth of microbes and result in repeated attacks of pneumonia . The sweat contains excessive salt, which is an easy way to screen for the condition. The diagnosis of cystic fibrosis is confirmed through genetic testing. Treatment mainly involves preventing and treating obstruction in various organs and repeated infections.
Researchers have found that a multidrug resistant Mycobacterium called Mycobacterium abscessus is threatening the lives of patients with cystic fibrosis. The organism that belongs to the same group as the tuberculosis mycobacterium.
It is virulent and is associated with worse clinical outcomes. It affects the lungs of the patients and can cause severe pneumonia and inflammatory damage to the lungs. The infection is extremely difficult to treat. Currently, multiple drugs are required to treat the infection for a prolonged duration of 18 months or even longer.
Taking into consideration that the infection is difficult to treat, cystic fibrosis patients should be protected from exposure to the organism. By studying the genome of the organism obtained from different patients, the researchers were able to prove that the infection spreads from person to person through air. It also spreads through contaminated surfaces in hospitals. Unfortunately, conventional cleaning methods used in hospitals cannot eliminate the mycobacterium from the surfaces.
However, with the new information, novel steps can be taken to prevent the spread of the infection with the implementation of new infection control policies in hospitals that treat cystic fibrosis patients.
The researchers will now investigate another aspect of the problem - how the organism has spread between Continents and has assumed global proportions. One theory is that healthy people may act as carriers in spreading the infection, which causes infection only in cystic fibrosis patients.
- Bryant, JM et al. Emergence and spread of a human transmissible multidrug-resistant nontuberculous mycobacterium. Science; 11 Nov 2016; Vol. 354, Issue 6313, pp. 751-757 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8156
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