Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
Chile's President Michelle Bachelet (R) poses for a selfie with Valentina Maureira, a 14-year old girl who suffers from cystic fibrosis (CF), at a hospital room in Santiago. [Representational image]Reuters

A life-threatening microbe that causes severe pneumonia in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients is driving an epidemic and has spread worldwide, according to a new study by British researchers. 

The study, conducted by researchers from Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, revealed that the bacteria causing this ailment is a multidrug-resistant species named Mycobacterium abscessus (M. abscessus). The dangerous microbe is capable of causing severe pneumonia in people suffering from lung illnesses and CF.

"The bug initially seems to have entered the patient population from the environment, but we think it has recently evolved to become capable of jumping from patient to patient, getting more virulent as it does so," Andres Floto, a Cambridge University professor who co-led the study, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

CF is a rare genetic respiratory disorder, which also affects reproductive and digestive systems. This disease leads to clogging of the patient's lungs with mucus and makes them prone to respiratory diseases.

The study involved samples of over 1,000 mycobacteria belonging to 517 people suffering from CF, which were analysed by specialists in the United States, Europe and Australia. It was found that the patients got the communicable form of M. abscessus, which had spread worldwide. This microbe is said to spread through air as well as infected surfaces, the researchers said.

This microbe is said to be resistant to numerous antibiotics, which makes it tough to control this illness, Floto explained. Less than one out of three cases get successfully treated for this ailment. Patients need a treatment that continues over a span of 18 months or more, and they also require a strong dose of medication.

"Now that we know the extent of the problem and are beginning to understand how the infection spreads, we can start to respond," Julian Parkhill of the Sanger Institute, one of the researchers, told Reuters. "The sequencing data has thrown up potential new drug targets and the researchers now plan to focus on seeking to develop new medicines to beat the bug."

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