Cystic Fibrosis is a devastating genetic disorder which is multi-system, affecting the lungs, sinuses, sweat glands and digestive tract. This illness affects over 30,000 people in the United States alone, with over 700 of these people in Georgia. The disease is painful and debilitating but we are beginning to understand how the disease works and are on our way to beating it. A new discovery has recently come to light that could be a major breakthrough in treating cystic fibrosis in Atlanta and all over the world.
A team of researchers has recently authored a study that uncovers the way bacterial infections are structured. This new knowledge can lead to greater, more effective treatments for many different kinds of illnesses, including those infections related to cystic fibrosis which can be deadly.
Bacteria are made from biofilms, or molecular chains within the bacteria. Once a biofilm forms, it is stubborn and tough to remove from the surface they infect, similar to plaque on teeth. Most infections that people get are the result of these biofilms.
The Termite Metaphor
The study’s lead author, Dr. Paul Bollyky, uses a comparison with a termite mound to explain how the new treatment works. In the past, scientists viewed biofilm like spider silk—something tough that the bacteria spin and make, which gets stuck to the body. In truth, Bollyky says, these nasty chains are like termite mounds.
Their structure is far more complex and organized than we initially realized, and use material from your body to incorporate into their structure which is hard and resistant to damage. In addition, viruses work in combination with bacteria to create these structures, which goes against the common assumption that bacteria and viruses are enemies in the body. Bollyky says that this new discovery will allow us to take biofilm apart at a structural level.
The New Approach
At this point we fight biofilms by attacking the bacteria on the surface. Returning to the termite mound, however, it’s hard to get rid of a nest of insects by just killing the ones you see outside. With this discovery it is hoped that new treatments will be able to take out the biofilms themselves, and target their building blocks, destroying them altogether.
Cystic Fibrosis in Atlanta
One of the things that makes cystic fibrosis so devastating is that it creates mucous in the body which is attractive to biofilms. This leads to the potential for serious infections that in many cases lead to death. This new understanding of what biofilms are and how they work can lead to better, improved treatments for these infections and has the potential to drastically increase the life expectancy of CF patients. The research is still preliminary with lots of work to be done, but it is an exciting step forward in combatting bacterial infections.
If you have cystic fibrosis and are in need of treatment, read about how the disease can be treated, and give us a call at Atlanta ENT for an appointment and evaluation of your condition today.