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Bacterial food web may be key to cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis patients suffer from chronic bacterial infections and thick mucous in their lungs, due largely to a combination of microbial infections and resulting inflammation. A common pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can lay dormant in healthy individuals, becomes virulent in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, and Cornell biological engineers think they might know why.

They have shown that P. aeruginosa virulence is “turned on” when it feeds on a particular fermentation product called 2,3 butanediol, demonstrating a direct metabolic relationship between fermenting bacteria and P. aeruginosa. This understanding could lead to more effective treatments for cystic fibrosis patients; rather than the use of antibiotics, disrupting P. aeruginosa’s flow of preferred food could be key to preventing cystic fibrosis-related infections in the lungs.

The research was led by Lars Angenent, associate professor of biological and environmental engineering. A paper, along with a related one by San Diego State University researchers, was published online Jan. 9 in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.
 
 

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