Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown for the first time how bacteria can grow directly in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. It is thought this will proffer tremendous insights into bacterial behavior growth in chronic infections.
How immune cells help
The study also discovered bacterial growth in chronic lung infections among cystic fibrosis (CF) patients was halted or slowed down by host immune cells. It was shown immune cells consumed all the oxygen. This action helped to ‘suffocate’ the bacteria, slowing its growth.
The researchers were able to measure the growth of bacteria directly in transplanted infected tissue without disturbing the bacterial cells. Accordingly, this gave them tremendous insights into the behavior of bacteria behavior in chronic infections.
The suffocating mechanism of the immune cells is the first time a bacteriostatic effect of immune cells has been described. Previously immune cells were thought to only kill bacteria not halt their growth. Consequently, this helps to explain why the drug treatment approach developed in the CF clinic at Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen is as successful as it is.
Understanding cystic fibrosis
This study is important as the growth of bacteria in chronic infection is poorly understood. This is all the more paradoxical as the effect of antibiotics is very closely connected to the rate of growth of the target bacteria. Currently, most types of antibiotics are ineffective against dormant bacterial cells. However, this study finally helps pinpoint the best treatment of chronic lung infection amongst CF patients. Accordingly being able to understand bacterial growth will enable clinicians to improve treatment for CF patients.
When the team applied these new findings to measure growth for bacteria living in biofilm in explanted lung tissue, a diverse pattern of growth throughout the tissue samples resulted. As this was unexpected, the group investigated possible correlations. Indeed high local concentrations of immune cells were observed restricting the growth of the bacteria. Furthermore, in vitro experiments indicate immune cells can remove oxygen to vigorously restrict bacterial growth.
How the study helps patients
The main goal of the project was to improve the understanding of bacterial behavior in chronic infections including CF. In addition, the investigation also demonstrates how bacterial and host immunity compete with each other.
The results show it is possible to study the bacteria in shake flasks in the laboratory, as well as in situ. Thus greatly improving incite into chronic infections in general. On top of this, the newly discovered mechanism of white blood cells regarding chronic infections is highly salient.
It is fair to say that the medical community is on the right track to understanding chronic infections like cystic fibrosis and piece by piece they will solve the puzzle.
Source: University of Copenhagen
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation–expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.