-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Antibiotics can prolong
cystic fibrosis patients' lives, but the drugs also help
treatment-resistant bacteria thrive in their lungs, a new, small
The findings from the 10-year investigation suggest, but do not
prove, that the current standard of aggressive antibiotic treatment
for cystic fibrosis patients may not always be the best
It's common to use antibiotics to control infection in cystic
fibrosis patients' lungs, but maintaining a more diverse range of
bacteria in the lungs may help some patients stay healthy longer,
according to study senior author Dr. John LiPuma, a research
professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University
of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
"The conventional wisdom has been that as patients with cystic fibrosis age and become sicker, as their lung disease progresses, more and more bacteria move in," he said in a university news release. "But our study -- which was the first to examine the bacterial communities in cystic fibrosis patients' lungs over a long period of time -- indicates that's not what happens."
Aggressive use of antibiotics actually lowers the diversity of
lung bacteria, resulting in infections that are increasingly
difficult to treat. A more diverse community of lung bacteria may
help keep the most dangerous strains in check, the researchers
"What we normally do is essentially carpet bombing with antibiotics," explained LiPuma. "However, what we found is that over time this ultimately helps treatment-resistant bacteria by getting rid of their competition."
He said the findings may be a first step toward developing new
treatment methods, such as more focused use of antibiotics or even
giving cystic fibrosis patients beneficial bacteria.
The study was published March 26 in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease in which the body produces
thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs. The accumulation of the
mucus leaves people prone to serious, hard-to-treat and recurrent
infections. Eventually, the repeated infections destroy the
In the study, researchers examined the bacteria from six
patients collected over eight to nine years. Half of the patients
had a relatively stable type of the disease and the others had the
more typical, faster-progressing form. The investigators conducted
DNA analysis on bacteria in 126 sputum samples.
Over time, the researchers found that bacterial diversity
declined, yet the overall level of bacteria remained fairly
constant. The study authors explained that this means a small
number of organisms multiply to take the place of those that have
been killed off by antibiotics.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more
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