New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that 15 per cent of Ontario Cystic Fibrosis (CF) patients are infected with a strain of bacteria that makes them twice as likely to die or require a lung transplant within three years (19 per cent compared to 9 per cent). This “Liverpool epidemic” strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been detected previously in CF patients in England, but this is the first study to show that it has spread outside the UK and also infects patients in North America. It is also the first study to show that the strain is associated with worse outcomes in CF patients.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal inherited disease that causes mucous to build up in the lungs, making affected people more susceptible to normally harmless bacteria such as P aeruginosa.

“People with cystic fibrosis already take many precautions against infection, as do their family members and caregivers, and this study underlines how important these efforts are,” said Dr. Shawn Aaron, Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Head of Respiratory Medicine at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, and lead investigator in the research study.

P aeruginosa can be spread between CF patients by coughing. Recent research suggests that healthy individuals and family pets may also serve as temporary reservoirs.

The study involved 446 CF patients from all seven CF clinics in Ontario, and was conducted between 2005 and 2008. It was funded by the Ontario Lung Association, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Full reference: Infection With Transmissible Strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Clinical Outcomes in Adults With Cystic Fibrosis. Aaron SD, Vandemheen KL, Ramotar K, Giesbrecht-Lewis T, Tullis E, Freitag A, Paterson N, Jackson M, Lougheed MD, Dowson C, Kumar V, Ferris W, Chan F, Doucette S, Fergusson D. JAMA. 2010 Nov 17;304(19):2145-2153.