Science

Drug-Resistant Superbug Threatens Cystic Fibrosis Patients

By Christie Abagon , Nov 11, 2016 11:00 PM EST

British researchers said Thursday that a life-threatening obscure multidrug-resistant superbug has spread globally, and is becoming increasingly fatal.  Scientists say that this has become silently epidemic. 

Superbug "Mycobacterium Abscessus" Considered Adaptive And Viral

The bacteria, Mycobacterium abscessus, was believed to have been found at random from soil but recent studies show that it has already adapted to humans and have spread to patients with Cystic Fibrosis from one treatment center to the next all around the globe.

Andres Floto, a Cambridge University professor who co-led the study said:  "The bug initially seems to have entered the patient population from the environment, but we think it has recently evolved to become capable of jumping from patient to patient, getting more virulent as it does so."

What Is Cystic Fibrosis And How Do CF Patients Acquire The Bug?

Cystic Fibrosis is a rare genetic disorder that affects mainly the lungs and other body organs like pancreas, liver, kidneys, and intestine.  It causes the lungs to be clogged up with thick, sticky mucus, making CF patients vulnerable to respiratory diseases. 

According to a recent analysis, the superbug infection may be transmitted in hospitals via contaminated surfaces through the air - presenting a serious challenge to infection control practices.  Researchers explain that when an infected patient coughs, the bacteria may stay airborne or stay on objects that an unifected patient may later touch and can precipitate spread if disease. 

Have Scientists Found A Cure For Cystic Fibrosis?

The bug has become resistant to many antibiotics making it very difficult to treat successfully.  Patients who are infected need at least 18 months of treatment with a combination of powerful antibiotics and less than one in three cases is cured.

Julian Parkhill, geneticist of the Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K who worked on this study said: "Now that we know the extent of the problem and are beginning to understand how the infection spreads, we can start to respond."

Parkhill also said that the sequencing data has thrown up potential new drug targets and that scientists are now planning to focus on developing new medicines to beat the bug.

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