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Why Are Some Germs Particularly Dangerous for People with CF?

The faulty gene that causes CF affects how salt and water moves in the lungs. This salt imbalance results in thick, sticky mucus that builds up in the lungs, allowing germs to thrive and multiply.

When the body’s defense system — white blood cells — attack the germs, the lungs become inflamed. This inflammation spurs the creation of more mucus, which then blocks the airways, and allows more germs to grow. As you can see, it’s a vicious cycle.

Despite significant progress treating CF, infections remain a serious problem and can lead to worsening lung disease or death.

Many germs are especially dangerous for people with CF and may lead to a faster decline in lung function. Medical studies show that people with CF are at particular risk of spreading certain germs among others with the disease. Some of these germs include:

Burkholderia cepacia complex (B. cepacia)

This group of germs lives in damp or wet places and is often difficult to treat once it infects the lungs.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

MRSA are strains of Staphylococcus aureus that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. MRSA can be spread from one person to another through casual contact — like shaking hands — or by touching objects that have the bacteria on them.

Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)

This group of bacteria live in soil, swamps and water sources, and have been found in growing numbers of people with CF. NTM can survive many disinfectants and severe environmental conditions.

Multi-drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa)

P. aeruginosa is a common bacteria that comes in thousands of different strains and is found in many different environments. Medical data show that people with CF may pick up more difficult-to-treat strains of the bacteria from each other.

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