Resistant Bacteria and Cysistic Fibrosis

By Ursula Biba

Mycobacterium abscessus multidrug resistant bacterial infections have become a global health issue in the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) community. CF is a hereditary disease that shortens life expectancy due to the buildup of thick mucus in the lungs in affected individuals, and an M. abscessus infection causes severe pneumonia that progressively damages the lungs, prevents safe lung transplants and is extremely difficult to treat. Although assumed to be transmitted through the environment, researchers at the University of Cambridge and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute found that the infection is transmitted both virally and through contaminated surfaces. Through mycobacteria genome sequencing, researchers also found that CF patients in Europe, Australia and the US were infected by globally transmissible forms of the bacteria. As M. abscessus evolves, it becomes more virulent and harder to treat—but Professor Julian Parkhill from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is hopeful that his team’s work will lead to more effective infection control. Though treatment centers like The Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire successfully reduced infection rates in their patients by implementing new bacterial control policies, scientists worldwide are still grappling with understanding the pathogen’s ability to spread between continents. Moving forward, researchers are now focusing on understanding unaffected carriers’ roles in transmission and further developing new drug targets. 


University of Cambridge. (2016, November 10). Multi-drug resistant infection spreading globally among cystic fibrosis patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2016 from