Cystic Fibrosis
New treatment for cystic fibrosis patients
Jan 19, 2006, 13:10

Scientists have discovered a new therapy for lung problems associated with cystic fibrosis that they say may reduce the use of antibiotics.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes chronic lung damage due to the build-up of excessive amounts of sticky mucus.

The treatment developed by researchers at the University of North Carolina and the University of Sydney involves inhaling a salt water aerosol solution almost twice as salty as the Atlantic Ocean, reported the online edition of BBC News.

This helps to cut damage by restoring a thin lubricant layer of water that normally coats airway surfaces, it said.

In healthy people, the water layer lining in the airways helps to clear away excess amounts of mucus by sweeping it up into the mouth where it can be swallowed.

But this water layer is missing in people with cystic fibrosis, so they are unable to prevent mucus from clogging up their lungs. Ultimately, this can lead to respiratory failure.

The new therapy works by using salt to suck water from the lung tissues out on to their surface, the researchers said.

The US team used the aerosol to treat a small group of cystic fibrosis patients. They found that it significantly improved mucus clearance, lung function and breathing symptoms.

The Australian team then applied it to another 164 patients for a longer period, almost a year. They found patients needed fewer antibiotics to treat lung infections and were more able to attend work or school.

"It gives us great hope that use of this therapy will reduce how often patients feel ill, will slow the decline of lung function over time and will help these people live longer," researcher Scott Donaldson said.

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