Common, Symptomless Form of Herpes May be Linked to Cystic Fibrosis

According to a publication from EurekAlert, a recent study suggests a common, typically symptomless form of the herpes virus called cytomegalovirus may cause faster disease progression in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. Cystic fibrosis patients with the virus were found to be referred for lung transplants at an earlier age, and their conditions were found to progress to terminal stages more quickly.

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a usually genetically-inherited condition that causes the typically watery, slick, naturally-occurring mucous and digestive fluids produced by the body to have a thick and sticky consistency. These secretions can congest or even clog small ducts in the body. Typically the lungs are the most affected, though the pancreas also routinely suffers damage.

In the United States alone, it’s thought that as many as 30,000 people are living with cystic fibrosis – and possibly up to 70,000 worldwide. In the U.S., every newborn is screened for cystic fibrosis. In some parts of the world where access to healthcare may be less readily available, CF may go undiagnosed, and therefore unrecorded, more often.

About the Study

The study involved 56 cystic fibrosis patients that had been referred for lung transplant at the Calgary Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic. 30 of those individuals, or just over 50%, also tested positive for cytomegalovirus. To account for other factors that could influence the rate of progression of the disease, researchers also recorded basic but pertinent information, such as sex, BMI, or other noteworthy medical traits.

Analysis of the 56 patients showed that cytomegalovirus infection was the single most important factor they tested for in determining the speed of cystic fibrosis progression. CF patients with the virus were referred for lung transplants eight years earlier than their uninfected counterparts, on average. They also died a decade earlier.

The results were so pronounced they bordered on shocking – but in typically scientific fashion, the team behind the research was hesitant to get excited. They noted that the suggested connection did not necessarily imply that the virus directly caused more rapid progression of cystic fibrosis. However, the data did provide the first of any proof that the virus could have an effect on the progression of CF. Researchers hope that, if the connection is confirmed with further research, cytomegalovirus vaccination could play a role in CF control.

The team cautioned that the study of 56 was unfavorably small, and from a non-diverse selection of locations. Nonetheless, the finding has many in the field interested to find out more.

It’s estimated that over 90% of people 80 and up have cytomegalovirus. Why do you think it’s important to establish whether this virus is linked to cystic fibrosis or not? Share your thoughts with Patient Worthy!

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