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Cystic Fibrosis research

28 October 2010

Burkholderia bacteriaScanning electron micrograph of Burkholderia bacteria

Scientists at the School of Biosciences have begun a one year research project aimed at investigating a bacterial infection that causes problems for those with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). The research has been funded by a £45,000 grant from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases. It is caused by a single defective gene and causes the lungs and digestive system to become clogged with thick sticky mucus resulting in chronic infections and inflammation in the lungs and difficulty digesting food. People with CF sufferer from a range of bacterial infections in the lungs, but those caused by Burkholderia bacteria are particularly problematic. These infections are difficult to treat, as the bacteria is often resistant to antibiotics causing lung damage, a reduction in lung function and a shortened life expectancy for those with Cystic Fibrosis.

Dr Eshwar Mahenthiralingam, leader of the research project, said: "These bacteria are made up of many different species. Infections in people with CF caused by Burkholderia cenocepacia were common from the 80s to 2000 so as a result the majority of research has focused on this bacterium. However in the last decade, another species called Burkholderia multivorans has become more common, and to date we know little about how it causes infection and resists treatment.

"Using modern genetic approaches we will be studying how B. multivorans causes infection and how to target new therapies. We will also be investigating how a particular antibiotic called enacyloxin, which is actually made by another related bacterium Burkholderia ambifaria, kills drug resistant B. multivorans strains. This research will lead to the development of new strategies to treat B. multivorans infections in CF which in time will mean a better outlook for those with Cystic Fibrosis."

John Devlin, spokesperson for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust said: "We spend over £3 million on medical research every year which aims to benefit people with CF in the near future. We are delighted to be funding this research at Cardiff University which will help us find new ways of treating those with Cystic Fibrosis."