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Metabolism and Pathogenicity of Infections in the Lungs of Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis

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  • Authors: Gregory C. Palmer1, Marvin Whiteley2
  • Editors: Tyrrell Conway3, Paul Cohen4
    Affiliations: 1: Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Freshman Research Initiative, College of Natural Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712; 2: Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology, Department of Molecular Biosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712; 3: Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK; 4: University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
  • Source: microbiolspec July 2015 vol. 3 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.MBP-0003-2014
  • Received 07 January 2014 Accepted 05 June 2014 Published 17 July 2015
  • Gregory C. Palmer, [email protected]
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  • Abstract:

    Individuals with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF) accumulate mucus or sputum in their lungs. This sputum is a potent growth substrate for a range of potential pathogens, and the opportunistic bacterium is generally most difficult of these to eradicate. As a result, infections are frequently maintained in the CF lung throughout life, and are the leading cause of death for these individuals. While great effort has been expended to better understand and treat these devastating infections, only recently have researchers begun to rigorously examine the roles played by specific nutrients in CF sputum to cue pathogenicity. This chapter summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding how metabolism in CF sputum affects initiation and maintenance of these infections. It contains an overview of CF lung disease and the mechanisms of pathogenicity. Several model systems used to study these infections are described with emphasis on the challenge of replicating the chronic infections observed in humans with CF. Nutrients present in CF sputum are surveyed, and the impacts of these nutrients on the infection are discussed. The chapter concludes by addressing the future of this line of research including the use of next-generation technologies and the potential for metabolism-based therapeutics.

  • Citation: Palmer G, Whiteley M. 2015. Metabolism and Pathogenicity of Infections in the Lungs of Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis. Microbiol Spectrum 3(4):MBP-0003-2014. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.MBP-0003-2014.


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Individuals with the genetic disease cystic fibrosis (CF) accumulate mucus or sputum in their lungs. This sputum is a potent growth substrate for a range of potential pathogens, and the opportunistic bacterium is generally most difficult of these to eradicate. As a result, infections are frequently maintained in the CF lung throughout life, and are the leading cause of death for these individuals. While great effort has been expended to better understand and treat these devastating infections, only recently have researchers begun to rigorously examine the roles played by specific nutrients in CF sputum to cue pathogenicity. This chapter summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding how metabolism in CF sputum affects initiation and maintenance of these infections. It contains an overview of CF lung disease and the mechanisms of pathogenicity. Several model systems used to study these infections are described with emphasis on the challenge of replicating the chronic infections observed in humans with CF. Nutrients present in CF sputum are surveyed, and the impacts of these nutrients on the infection are discussed. The chapter concludes by addressing the future of this line of research including the use of next-generation technologies and the potential for metabolism-based therapeutics.

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Summary of nutrients present in CF sputum and their roles in pathogenicity

Source: microbiolspec July 2015 vol. 3 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.MBP-0003-2014

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