MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Antibiotics can prolong cystic fibrosis patients' lives, but the drugs also help treatment-resistant bacteria thrive in their lungs, a new, small study suggests.
The findings from the 10-year investigation suggest, but do not prove, that the current standard of aggressive antibiotic treatment for cystic fibrosis patients may not always be the best approach.
It's common to use antibiotics to control infection in cystic fibrosis patients' lungs, but maintaining a more diverse range of bacteria in the lungs may help some patients stay healthy longer, according to study senior author Dr. John LiPuma, a research professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
"The conventional wisdom has been that as patients with cystic fibrosis age and become sicker, as their lung disease progresses, more and more bacteria move in," he said in a university news release. "But our study -- which was the first to examine the bacterial communities in cystic fibrosis patients' lungs over a long period of time -- indicates that's not what happens."
Aggressive use of antibiotics actually lowers the diversity of lung bacteria, resulting in infections that are increasingly difficult to treat. A more diverse community of lung bacteria may help keep the most dangerous strains in check, the researchers noted.
"What we normally do is essentially carpet bombing with antibiotics," explained LiPuma. "However, what we found is that over time this ultimately helps treatment-resistant bacteria by getting rid of their competition."
He said the findings may be a first step toward developing new treatment methods, such as more focused use of antibiotics or even giving cystic fibrosis patients beneficial bacteria.
The study was published March 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic
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