A recent study published in Cell Reports has uncovered a mechanism where germs living within the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients produce a type of carbohydrate slime that minimizes the efficacy of the antibiotics used to treat them.
It is common for those living with CF to face infection from Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This is one of the most common forms of bacteria causing persistent infections in the lungs for this population. It is also a common bacteria found in burns as well as ulcers caused by diabetes.
Unfortunately, Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections are some of the most difficult to cure. Patients are typically prescribed multiple courses of antibiotics.
This new study has illuminated that the bacteria in question becomes resistant to antibiotics when it comes in contact with carbohydrate slime. Specifically, they uncovered that this slime is produced precisely at the site of infection in the lung. It essentially covers the bacteria, thereby protecting it from antibiotics.
The researchers show this slime also impacts the efficacy of therapies used to thin mucus for CF patients. This is caused by Pel, one of the types of slime. It works by sticking to extracellular DNA which is found abundantly in the mucus within the lungs of patients.
Ultimately, this study supports the idea that carbohydrates play a role in cystic fibrosis.
By understanding the mechanisms through which drugs are losing their efficacy, we will be better suited to find new ways to support this patient population.
It is not that the treatments currently available were not well developed, it is simply that we are constantly learning about the complex systems of the human body, and how each therapy we develop may manifest within it.
Hopefully, this new study will lead to more directed research toward amplifying the efficacy of therapies in CF.
You can read more about this study here.