Success story for cystic fibrosis treatment has downside

Mar 26, 2012

A new study says aggressively treating lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients works – but only for awhile. 

Dr. John LiPuma of the University of Michigan says people with C-F live longer, healthier lives now because of antibiotics. 

But, after a while, the drugs kill off more benign bacteria.  That allows drug-resistent bacteria to flourish. 

Eventually, there’s nothing doctors can do for their C-F patients who develop bacterial lung infections.

Says LiPuma:  "What we’re learning is that manipulating the complex community of bacteria in a more thoughtful, and deliberate and clever way may be a better strategy to what we’ve been doing -- which has been to try to eliminate all the bacteria in the lung."

LiPuma says the alternative is to develop more antibiotics that only kill some bacteria, allowing other, less harmful ones to survive.

LiPuma is involved in the Human Microbiome Project, which is investigating how to maximize the benefit of so-called “good,” microbes, while suppressing the harm from “bad” microbes.