BETHESDA, Md. -- Today, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation awarded $2.76 million for 11 laboratory studies that will explore the underlying factors that impact COVID-19 outcomes in people with cystic fibrosis. Ultimately, insights gained from this body of research may be used to improve future treatments.
A recent global study of 181 people with CF who were diagnosed with COVID-19 suggested that outcomes for most people with CF are less severe than originally anticipated, although some cases can cause serious illness. Our current understanding of why there are differences in severity of COVID-19 illness among people with CF is limited.
To gain more clarity, the Foundation is funding novel studies that will investigate whether there are underlying biological differences in the way people with cystic fibrosis may be infected by or respond to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. This new research adds to the extensive portfolio of other viral, bacterial, and fungal research funded through the Foundation's Infection Research Initiative. The 11 studies, most of which will be for two years, fall within the following areas of research:
- The impact of CFTR mutations, chronic inflammation, and mucus on the coronavirus infection (Alessandra Bragonzi, PhD, San Raffaele Foundation, Milano, Italy; Kenichi Okuda, MD, PhD, and Raymond Pickles, PhD, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Scott Phillips, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
- Whether cells from people with CF are more or less likely to become infected and transmit the virus than cells from people without CF, and how CFTR modulators may alter these responses (John Hanrahan, PhD, and Gergely Lukacs, MD, PhD, McGill University, Quebec, Canada; Kun Li, PhD, University of Iowa; Eszter Vladar, PhD, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; and Ruobing Wang, MD, Boston Children's Hospital)
- Whether the coronavirus can lead to increased bacterial infections in people with CF; and antiviral therapies for COVID-19 are sufficient to mitigate disease in people with CF (Kevin Harrod, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham)
- Whether cells from people with CF have an altered inflammatory response to the coronavirus and what the role is of endogenous mechanisms (those originating from within the body) on resolution of inflammation in COVID-19 in cystic fibrosis (Antonio Recchiuti, Universita' degli Studi Gabriele d'Annunzio di Chieti-Pescara, Chieti, Italy)
The CF Foundation's Commitment to Infection Research
People with CF who have chronic infections are at greater risk for worsening lung disease, and infection remains a top concern of both patients and clinicians. Many individuals also suffer severe side effects from long-term antibiotic use, such as hearing loss, and are at increased risk of developing antibiotic-resistant infections.
In 2018, the CF Foundation dedicated at least $100 million to its Infection Research Initiative as part of a sweeping effort to advance research into bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. The Infection Research Initiative is a comprehensive approach to improve outcomes associated with infections through enhanced detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. Currently, the CF Foundation is funding more than 10 industry programs to develop treatments for CF-related infections.
Our Commitment to COVID-19 Research
The CF Foundation is monitoring COVID-19 cases in the U.S. through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, which gathers data from a network of 133 care centers across the country and includes more than 30,000 people with CF -- nearly the entire population of people with CF in the U.S. As of Dec. 3, 2020, the CF Foundation Registry reported a total 500 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases in the U.S. Of the positive cases in the U.S., three deaths have been reported in adults -- one in an individual with advanced lung disease and two in individuals who were post-transplant. The CF Foundation continues to recommend that people with CF and those close to them continue taking precautions to protect their health and follow the CDC's guidance for those at higher risk of developing severe illness.
About the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is the world's leader in the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis. The Foundation funds more CF research than any other organization, and nearly every CF drug available today was made possible because of Foundation support. Based in Bethesda, Md., the Foundation also supports and accredits a national care center network that has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a model of care for a chronic disease. The CF Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization. For more information, visit cff.org.