Some viruses help protect harmful bacteria in CF patients, study finds

medicalxpress.com | 3/28/2019 | Staff
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Chronic bacterial infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients are worsened by a previously unappreciated biological agent: a group of viruses that infect the bacteria.

The viruses form a biofilm that sequesters antibiotics away from bacteria, potentially contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance in CF patients' lungs, a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found.

Paper - Study - Children - Adults - CF

A paper describing the study, which involved 110 children and adults with CF, will appear April 17 in Science Translational Medicine. It is the first to explore how filamentous phages, which are stringy bacteria-attacking viruses, can contribute to lung disease. Understanding how the viruses work could lead to better CF therapies.

"Phages haven't been thought of as pathogens that affect humans," said lead author Elizabeth Burgener, MD, an instructor of pediatrics at Stanford. "This is a whole new paradigm of thinking about them."

Study - Authors - Paul - Bollyky - MD

The study's co-senior authors are Paul Bollyky, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and of microbiology and immunology, and Carlos Milla, MD, professor of pediatrics. Milla and Burgener are pediatric pulmonologists at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, where they treat CF patients.

Because phages infect only bacterial cells, scientists have assumed that the viruses do not act on human health. The new study's findings contradict this assumption: CF patients with phage-infected bacteria in their lungs fared worse than those with uninfected lung bacteria.

Infection - Lung - Bacteria - Resistance - Patients

"We saw that phage infection of the lung bacteria is associated with more antibiotic resistance in patients," Burgener said. Scientists have struggled to understand how an aggressive bacterial species, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, persists in the lungs of CF patients who are receiving antibiotics, she added. "We think the virus is helping Pseudomonas to establish chronic infection in CF patients' lungs and potentially making patients sicker over time."

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes the lungs to produce unusually thick,...
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