Queen's University Belfast is to lead a £139,000 study into the way cystic fibrosis sufferers are affected by a superbug that destroys lung function.
The research, funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust will investigate how the immune cells of cystic fibrosis patients are infected when they contract Burkholderia Cepacia (B.cepacia). The superbug can colonise in people with cystic fibrosis causing serious lung damage.
The two-year study will be coordinated by Professor Miguel Valvano, Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Queen's Centre for Infection and Immunity.
There are around 500 people living with cystic fibrosis in Northern Ireland, and the B.cepacia bug affects around six per cent of people with the illness.
Professor Valvano said: "We have reached a point in which it may be possible to directly identify molecules that can help immune cells, especially those that engulf bacteria to deal with the intracellular B.cepacia. Our research effort will be focused on developing the appropriate procedures that will enable us to screen libraries of chemical compounds to find molecules that can help cystic fibrosis patients' immune cells clear invading bacteria."
Professor Valvano aims to develop a better understanding of how cystic fibrosis affects the normal functioning of cells and how B.cepacia disrupts cell breakdown in people with cystic fibrosis. The second stage in the project will involve developing a quick and efficient way of testing large numbers of compounds with a view to finding a drug that can effectively treat B.cepacia.
Dr Janet Allen, Director of Research at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: "Professor Miguel Valvano is one of the world's leading experts in this field. His molecular research aimed at dissecting key bacterial components that directly interact with host cells to cause infections is internationally recognised.
"A key part of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust's research strategy is supporting research aimed at finding new ways to treat chronic infection and inflammation in people with cystic fibrosis. In people with cystic fibrosis certain bugs are able to turn the body's immune system against itself by disrupting the normal processes for dealing with invaders and causing harmful levels of inflammation. They are also very difficult to treat because they are able to block conventional antibiotics."
Media inquiries to Anne-Marie Clarke at Queen's Communications Office Tel: +44(0)28 9097 5320 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Louise Banks at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust on +44(0)208 290 7912 / +44(0)7989 436 204 or email: email@example.com
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