The lower airways in children with cystic fibrosis (CF) carry more infection risk, more inflammation and lower diversity of microorganisms, compared to children with other lung illnesses, new research found.

They noted a clear divergence in these bacterial communities in toddlers, which is typically before progressive lung disease takes hold in patients with CF. Their findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, could help providers target specific pathogens earlier, treat them and potentially prevent more severe lung disease.

“We compared lower airway samples from bronchoscopy in children with CF and disease controls across the age spectrum, and used genetic sequencing to identify microorganisms, finding that a few common cystic fibrosis pathogens begin to dominate at very early ages,” said lead author Jack O’Connor from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “Such a clear split from disease controls in this young age group has not been shown before. Our findings deepen our understanding of the disease trajectory in cystic fibrosis and could help improve outcomes through earlier intervention.”

Chronic airway infection and inflammation resulting in progressive, obstructive lung disease is the leading cause of illness and death in people with cystic fibrosis.

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