Cystic Fibrosis Alters Microbiome?

The microbiome of the lung is different in patients with the disease, which causes a thick buildup of mucus that makes breathing difficult.

Sep 28, 2012
Edyta Zielinska

The lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis harbor a different microbial makeup, including less diversity of species, than the lungs of healthy individuals, according to a study published Wednesday (September 26) in Science Translational Medicine.

Although the disease is caused by a genetic mutation, bacterial infections of the lungs cause many of the complications experienced by these patients, and can even lead to death. The new study shows that decreased microbial diversity plays a role in these complications. “Diminished microbial diversity is associated with severity of pulmonary inflammation within our adult CF cohort,” the Stanford University-based authors write in their report.

The team compared the 16S ribosomal RNA sequences—a segment of genetic information that is used to determine the phylogeny of a species—from sputum samples taken from 16 normal study participants and nine cystic fibrosis patients. Healthy participants had more bacteria from the phyla Baceriodetes and Fusobacteria, while cystic fibrosis patients had a greater number of Actinobacteria.

Although the authors call for further research to determine how and which of these bacterial communities contribute to the inflammation associated with the disease, the authors suggest taking a more measured approach with antibiotic treatment. "Rather than aggressively prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics,” the authors write, “clinicians might introduce targeted antimicrobials and probiotic therapies intended to regulate pathogen activity and enhance the efficacy of natural immune mechanisms with reduced long-term toxicity to the patient and the healthy microbiome."

(Hat tip to GenomeWeb.)