Ontario Lung Association

Ontario Lung Association

November 16, 2010 16:16 ET

New Research Findings Show Cystic Fibrosis Patients at Risk for Drug Resistant Epidemic Strains of Bacteria That Double the Risk of Transplant and Death

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2010) - Results from a research study published Tuesday in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) suggests an infectious strain that originated in England has crossed the Atlantic, placing Canadian cystic fibrosis (CF) patients at double the risk of mortality and morbidity (19% vs 9%). The study is the first report to suggest that common strains of P aeruginosa are shared among patients on different continents and is highly infectious among CF patients. The most prevalent strain – known as the Liverpool epidemic strain – was found to infect more than 15 percent of Ontario patients making patients twice as likely to require a lung transplant or to die within three years.

CF patients in Ontario were studied over a three-year period to see if patients were infected with one of two known common transmissible strains of P aeruginosa. Previously these antibiotic resistant strains had only been documented in England and Australia. While it's unclear as to whether the epidemic strains originated in Canada or England, what is clear is they can travel.

"We've established a new risk factor for accelerating mortality in cystic fibrosis patients," says Dr. Shawn Aaron, Head of Respiratory Medicine at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa, and lead investigator in the research study. "Our findings underlie the importance of strict infection control when managing CF patients, and, importantly, restricting them from close contact with one another."

Coughing serves as the potential method of airborne transmission. CF patients are infectious to one another but not other people, however, others can harbour the strain as a temporary reservoir of infection. Previous studies have shown that even family pets can serve as reservoirs for these transmissible strains.

The Liverpool epidemic strain first emerged in reports back in 1996 among patients living in the Liverpool, England area. This report is the first to confirm the strain in Canada.

The study was conducted from 2005 to 2008 and involved 446 CF patients from all seven CF clinics in Ontario.

The Ontario Lung Association provided the funding for the research study along with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Each year, the Ontario Lung Association invests nearly $1 million in lung health research conducted in Ontario and Canada.

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis (CF), a chronic fatal respiratory disease, is an autosomal recessive disease, with a carrier rate of 1 in 25. Symptoms usually develop in the first few months to first few years of life. Abnormal mucous is produced in the lungs of individuals with cystic fibrosis; it interferes with their breathing and they are more prone to serious lung infections.

Individuals with CF are unable to produce adequate pancreatic enzymes for the digestion of food, leading to malnutrition. While many children in the past died before reaching the age of 20, the median age of survival in Canada has reached 37 years. Individuals with cystic fibrosis are susceptible to serious lower tract respiratory infections.(i)

About Dr. Shawn Aaron

Dr. Shawn Aaron is a Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Head of Respiratory Medicine at The Ottawa Hospital and the University of Ottawa. Dr. Aaron has research interests in COPD, asthma and cystic fibrosis. Dr. Aaron's research focus is in clinical and epidemiologic studies, with a specific interest in the critical assessment of interventions designed to prevent exacerbations and improve the diagnosis and treatment of exacerbations of COPD and cystic fibrosis. 

Dr. Aaron is an executive member of the Ontario Thoracic Society.

About the Ontario Lung Association

The Lung Association is a registered charity that provides information and funding for research to improve lung health. We focus on the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease, tobacco control as well as healthy air and its effects on lung health. For information, call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or visit www.on.lung.ca. You can also find us on Facebook.

(i) http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/2007/lbrdc-vsmrc/fibrosis-fibrose-eng.php

Contact Information

  • Ontario Lung Association
    Karen Petcoff
    416-864-9911 ext 283
    Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
    Jennifer Paterson
    613-798-5555 x 73325