In cystic fibrosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a much-feared pathogen. The bacterium easily colonizes the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis, leading to chronic infections that are almost impossible to eradicate and are ultimately fatal. Why does P. aeruginosa, but not other common bacteria, thrive in cystic fibrosis lungs?
A new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests the answer has to do with the bacterium’s culinary preference for succinate, a byproduct of cellular metabolism, that is abundant in cystic fibrosis lungs.
“Preventing infection by P. aeruginosa could greatly improve the health of people with cystic fibrosis,” says Sebastián A. Riquelme, PhD, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics. “And it’s possible that we could control infection by targeting the bacteria’s use of succinate in the lung.”