Cystic fibrosis: the most common lung germs

Petri dish with germs (stylized): Cystic fibrosis sufferers are susceptible to infections with bacteria, viruses or fungi

Many cystic fibrosis sufferers develop lung infections during their lifetime, as the organ is particularly susceptible to pathogens due to the tough mucus. On this page we have compiled information on the most common lung germs in cystic fibrosis.

Repeated infections with bacteria, viruses, or fungi can significantly worsen lung function in cystic fibrosis, especially if they are chronic. This means that the infection can no longer be cured by medication. Cystic fibrosis patients can significantly reduce the risk of infection through general hygiene measures such as regular hand washing or avoiding crowds during cold season.

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Bacteria occur naturally everywhere in nature. They are part of our environment, but can also make us ill. Their multiplication can usually be prevented by antibiotics and infections can thus be stopped. However, bacteria increasingly develop strategies to protect themselves against antibiotics (they become resistant). Some bacteria can even resist disinfectants.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa

The most common germ found in the respiratory tract in cystic fibrosis Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Pseudomonads are found primarily in moist environments, especially in wet biotopes and stagnant water, but also in human lungs.

They can be transmitted from person to person, which is why attention must be paid to them in clinics, Pseudomonas aeruginosa-Separate positive patients from other cystic fibrosis patients. Pseudomonas aeruginosa has the ability to form a biofilm in which the bacteria aggregate and, embedded in a gelatinous protective layer, survive the attacks of the immune system and antibiotics.

Early and acute infections with pseudomonads can be treated well with antibiotics. Therefore, patients with cystic fibrosis must be regularly screened for pseudomonads to detect and treat the infection at an early stage. Once the bacteria have settled in their biofilm in the lungs, patients are usually plagued by recurrent infections (chronic infection), which are increasingly difficult to treat due to the emergence of resistance and impair lung function in the long term.

Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC)

Bacteria of the Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) are biofilm-forming moist germs and are naturally insensitive to many antibiotics. In addition, they easily acquire further resistances, whereby multi-resistant forms can occur. BCC bacteria are found in the soil, especially in the root zone of certain plants. BCC comprises a group of several genetically similar bacterial species. Bacteria of the complex occur much less frequently than pseudomonads in patients with cystic fibrosis, but the course of infection can be much more severe and is often more difficult to treat. However, this does not apply equally to all species of the BCC. Of particular importance for cystic fibrosis patients are Burkholderia (B.) multivorans, B. cenocepacia and B. dolosa. Under certain circumstances, these bacteria can trigger the so-called Cepacia syndrome, an acute deterioration of lung function with life-threatening complications. After lung transplantation, B. gladioli and B. cenocepacia lead to severe infections.

Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococci are spherical bacteria that occur naturally on the skin and mucosa in the environment and also in healthy people. Staphylococcus (S.) aureus is a very resistant germ and can survive for months even in dry dust or on surfaces.

S. aureus is the most common germ in young cystic fibrosis patients and is usually later replaced by other germs, especially Pseudomonas aeruginosa "detached". Infection with S. aureus can run without symptoms, but in cystic fibrosis patients it can also lead to increased coughing with purulent sputum and, rather rarely, cause severe pneumonia.

Non-resistant S.aureus are also called methicillin sensitive S. aureus (MSSA): They can usually be treated well with antibiotics. However, infection with MSSA can also become chronic and affect lung function in the long term.

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