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Vitamins May Improve Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis

Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis with Vitamins

Infections requiring the use of antibiotics are common in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, but unfortunately these can become less effective over time. Researchers have found a potential solution.


Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease which affects many organs including the lungs and the digestive system. A thick, sticky mucus can build with the organs which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Unfortunately, this can lead to repeated infections particularly in the lungs.

Antibiotics and Infection Treatment

Antibiotics are the primary treatment for infection, but resistance to these drugs are a global problem, states Professor Miguel Valvano of the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast.

The primary bacteria of focus is Burkholderia cenocepacia. While this bacteria may not be harmful to healthy persons, it is very concerning for those with chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis. And this bacteria has become highly antibiotic resistant.

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Effectiveness of Treatment

Prof Valvano and his team have discovered lipocalins, which “captures” the antibiotic making it less able to reach its target. However, these proteins will latch on with more strength to a fat-soluble vitamin, such as Vitamin E, thus making the antibiotic treatment more effective.

"This is an exciting and potentially life-changing finding, particularly relevant for cystic fibrosis patients who are chronically infected with multi-resistant bacteria, says Valvano. “We are now exploring ways to reformulate antibiotics together with relevant vitamins for delivery into cystic fibrosis patients and assess their efficacy, so that patients can benefit from these findings."

Journal Reference:
Omar M. El-Halfawy, Javier Klett, Rebecca J. Ingram, Slade A. Loutet, Michael E. P. Murphy, Sonsoles Martín-Santamaría, Miguel A. Valvano. Antibiotic Capture by Bacterial Lipocalins Uncovers an Extracellular Mechanism of Intrinsic Antibiotic Resistance. mBio, 2017; 8 (2): e00225-17 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00225-17

Additional Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Photo Credit:
By wikipedia user Gibalec, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons