Lung damage caused by repeated respiratory infections is the leading cause of death for people with cystic fibrosis.
People with Cystic Fibrosis receive checkups at their CF Clinic every 3 months. During these checkups, the nurse will take a throat culture that will be tested to see if the person has any bacteria in their lungs. If they do, the bacteria is often treated with antibiotics to try to eradicate it from the lungs.
Research has shown that the type of bacteria found in the lungs often follows a pattern. The most common bacteria change with age.
The following are some common bacteria that people with Cystic Fibrosis may have in their lungs.
It was formerly called Pfeiffer’s bacillus or Bacillus influenzae. This bacteria is most common in babies.
This bacteria is most common in children. When a person with Cystic Fibrosis has this bacteria in the lungs, the CF clinic may or may not treat it. Treatment depends on several factors, including: how heavy is the growth, did they culture anything else in addition to this bacteria, and when were they last treated with antibiotics.
Aspergillus is a fungus that occurs commonly in the environment, so it is difficult if not impossible to avoid coming in contact with. For most people, aspergillus is harmless but for 15% of the people who have cystic fibrosis, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called ABPA.
More than half of all people with cystic fibrosis will battle a lung infection caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa at some point in their lives. In fact, it is the most commonly occurring organism in CF-related lung infections. Thus, P. aeruginosa is also the bacteria responsible for the death of many people with CF.
Burkholderia cepacia, which used to be called Pseudomonas cepacia, is a rare but significant threat to people who have cystic fibrosis.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), is becoming an increasingly common complication in people with cystic fibrosis. MRSA can be found on the skin, in wounds, in urine, and many other parts of the body but the lungs are the most common site of MRSA infection in those with CF.
Some bacteria are very hard to treat. This is because bacteria can change if they are exposed to antibiotics over and over. If bacteria change, some antibiotics can no longer kill or weaken them. When this happens, the bacteria are called antibiotic resistant. If bacteria become resistant to more than one main type of antibiotic, they are called multi-drug resistant.