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Drug boosts antibiotic treatment for rare lung disease

Pairing antibiotics with a drug that helps break down bacterial defences could make them more effective against hard-to-treat infections in patients with a rare lung disease.

Primary ciliary dyskinesia, or PCD, is a rare genetic condition that results in ineffective cilia, tiny hair-like structures that keep the airways of our lungs clear from mucus and debris. This makes those with PCD prone to lung infections.

New research, published in The European Respiratory Journal, has shown that the cells lining the lungs of PCD patients are not only more susceptible to infection, but has also revealed why these infections can be harder to treat with antibiotics.

The bacteria Haemophilus influenzae, the most common cause of lung infections in PCD patients, surround themselves in a protective slime known as a biofilm. The researchers showed that combining antibiotics with a drug that disrupts biofilms, PYRRO-C3D, improved antibiotic performance in lung cells taken from PCD patients.

Boosting antibiotic treatment

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide, resulting in ‘superbugs’ that can’t be treated with standard antibiotics. This antibiotic resistance threatens to turn the clock back to a time when infections associated with surgery, disease or childbirth were untreatable and deadly.

One of the main ways to combat the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is to minimise the use of antibiotics. This research suggests PYRRO-C3D could do exactly this, by allowing smaller but more effective doses of antibiotics to be given to PCD patients with a lung infection.

Helping PCD patients

The team used tissue samples from the lungs of 15 people with PCD and 19 people without. Cells from the samples were then cultured in a dish with Haemophilus influenzae bacteria.

After three days, PCD patients’ cells had considerably more bacteria than those from participants without the condition. Their was also more biofilm present, meaning that antibiotics were less effective when added tothese cellsso when an antibiotic was added it was less able to kill the bacteria. However, adding the drug PYRRO-C3D broke down the biofilm, boosting the ability of the antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

This raises the possibility that PCD patients might benefit from PYRRO-C3D use alongside antibiotics to better treat the lung infections they are particularly prone to.


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