As Both Patient and Scientist, I’m Putting Nature’s Medicine to the Test

By Ella Balasa

I peered into one of the incubators that stored my petri dishes for 24 hours, anxious to see whether I would discover discoloration and unevenness on the surface, which would have indicated that my experiment produced favorable results. I wanted to see a visual representation of whether manuka honey kills the stubborn Pseudomonas bacterium, which dwells in nearly half of the lungs affected by CF.

I’m a microbiology lab scientist, plus an inquisitive writer. I also consider myself an informed, self-advocating realist. Life experiences have taught me that I am solely responsible for my health. I strive to keep my health stable through prescribed medications, healthy diet, and some natural supplements.

During my college years, I focused on the environment, especially the living parts that we can’t see but that are essential to the cycle of life — bacteria. It just so happens that certain ones are, understatedly, little pests for people with CF. The lung bacteria of people with CF birth many symptoms and infections.

I continually fight Pseudomonas aeruginosa, my nemesis bacterium that spikes fevers within days of overwhelming my immune system and that has caused countless infections, leaving my lungs with pockets of dead tissue. I take antibiotics frequently, but I also believe that naturally derived compounds can have positive effects. So, despite my disdain and nausea, I sometimes supplement garlic, which contains the antibacterial compound ajoene. I’ve also consumed manuka honey; this I’ve done more religiously, as it tastes more like candy than any “medication.” Manuka honey contains the natural antibiotic methylglyoxal, a compound that fights relentless Pseudomonas by causing its cells to burst and die. I took a spoonful a day for a few years until recently. Maybe I stuck to this exorbitantly priced, palatable remedy merely because of its taste and the flawed logic that expensiveness is indicative of effectivity.

I had the idea to test the effectiveness of the honey on my sputum. My mucus grows many species of bacteria, but Pseudomonas is a primary component, so it’s easy to propagate in the lab setting.

Yes, I took a sputum cup of mucus into work. When inoculating the vials with the bacteria, I was slightly anxious that my lab mates might freak out at the sight of the hazardous and vile-looking green blobs. Then again, they work with wastewater from treatment plants, so it really shouldn’t phase them.

I tested a concentration of 15 percent weight per volume of manuka honey, a choice informed by published studies. I tested half of the petri dishes with honey mixed into the nutrients for the bacteria and the other half without the honey. The dishes with the honey should have less bacterial growth if the treatment works. (If you want more detail on the process, drop a comment below this column.)

The yellow dish has the honey added and the white dish doesn’t. (Photo by Ella Balasa)

After the 24-hour incubation period, I was excited to see the results of science that we as patients typically do not participate in. We provide our sputum samples during doctor’s appointments, then labs perform antibiotic resistance tests, and results are returned as values on a piece of paper indicating resistance or susceptibility. We don’t see the process. I was doing this same research on my own, and in a sense, taking the utmost control of my health.

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Antibiotic plus probiotic combination may kill off superbugs

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Every year, over 2 million people in the United States develop infections that are resistant to treatment, and approximately 23,000 people die as a result.

These statistics have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deem drug resistance “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.”

Therefore, researchers are hard at work trying to develop ingenious ways of tackling so-called superbugs — bacteria that have become immune to antibiotic treatment.

Lately, researchers have added probiotics to their arsenal against superbugs. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in foods, such as yogurt, kefir, pickles, or miso soup.

Only a month ago, for example, a study suggested that simply consuming probiotics on a regular basis could reduce the need for antibiotics, thus helping to curb the drug resistance crisis. Continue reading Antibiotic plus probiotic combination may kill off superbugs

For Cystic Fibrosis Lung Infections, How Well Antibiotics Work May be Affected by pH, Oxygen

By Heather Buschman, PhD

People living with cystic fibrosis (CF) spend their entire lives battling chronic lung infections that are notoriously resistant to antibiotic therapy. Yet a one-size-fits all approach to wiping out the offending bacterium may not be the best approach for all patients with the disease, according to a new study by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Continue reading For Cystic Fibrosis Lung Infections, How Well Antibiotics Work May be Affected by pH, Oxygen

Telavancin Promising Potential Treatment Option for MRSA in Cystic Fibrosis Patients

By Kristi Rosa

Responsible for several issues ranging from skin infections and sepsis to pneumonia and bloodstream infections, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus continues to plague patients in the health care and community setting, as well as the providers who treat them.

When acquired in patients with cystic fibrosis, clinical outcomes are known to be even worse, affecting several organs—primarily the lungs—and resulting in an increased rate of declined respiratory function as well as infections that can have severe, and sometimes deadly, consequences.

Now, however, for the first time, investigators have found that telavancin—a drug that is currently used to treat skin infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia—has potent in vitro activity and low resistance development potential when used against S aureus isolates in patients with cystic fibrosis, making it a promising potential treatment option for this population.

“Telavancin (TLV) is a lipoglycopeptide antibiotic approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009 for the treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections and in 2013 for the treatment of cases of nosocomial pneumonia, however its application for the treatment of CF-MRSA pneumonia infections was not known, so our studies are contributing to extending the application of TLV for CF treatment,” Adriana E. Rosato, PhD, associate professor in the department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute told Contagion®. “We were also inspired by the fact that CF patients have a short life time—until 40 to 50 [years]—so our priority is to contribute to better treatment in this patient population.”

Dr. Rosato and her team hypothesized that TLV might be a promising treatment option for CF-patient-derived MRSA and MSSA infections, as in vitro studies have shown that TLV has activity against MRSA.

To prove this, the investigators screened a total of 333 strains of CF patient-derived S aureus of the wild-type or small-colony-variant phenotype, collected from both adults and children at 3 different cystic fibrosis centers: Houston Methodist Research Institute, UW Health and the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research. TLV was found to display activity against all 333 strains collected.

When testing the activity of the drug against 23 MRSA strains, the investigators observed intermediate resistance to ceftaroline (CPT)—a new beta-lactam antibiotic that targets PBP 2a in MRSA—in 20 of the strains, and high-level resistance to CPT in 3 of the strains. The authors note that although high levels of resistance to CPT is rare, intermediate resistance is more common in patients who have chronic infections.

“Among all strains, the TLV MIC90 was 0.06 mg/liter, i.e. 8-fold lower than the daptomycin (DAP) and CPT MIC90 and 25-fold lower than the linezolid (LZD) and vancomycin (VAN) MIC90,” the authors write.

Using time-kill experiments, the investigators assessed the in vitro effectiveness of TLV compared with DAP, VAN, and CPT. They found that TLV showed activity against all tested strains and displayed rapid bactericidal activity as well. The activity profile for the drug at a free serum concentration of 8 mg/liter showed that TLV performed better than VAN (16 mg/liter), LZD (10.4 mg/liter), and CPT (16 mg/liter).

The investigators also set out to determine the fate of mutation selection that could be projected by the potential prolonged use of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis. To do this they looked at 3 specific strains: AMT 0114-48, WIS 664, and TMH 5007. They found that due to the ease of mutation selection which had been noted in control strains, TLV mutant resistance is independent of the CF patient background of the strains.

“We demonstrated that TLV has bactericidal activity against the S aureus strains tested, including those against which CPT and LZD displayed reduced activity, which might provide TLV a significant advantage over the drugs currently used to eradicate those strains and prevent future exacerbations,” the study authors write.

A clinical trial is currently underway to assess the pharmacokinetic profile of TLV in patients with cystic fibrosis, who usually need dose adjustment because of an increase in the volume of distribution and clearance.

“[The next step for our research is] to perform in-vivo analyses studies that could lead to translational application/clinical trial,” Dr. Rosato added. “However, we are limited in research funds to continue our investigations.”

Original article here.

Cinnamon Oil Compound Might Block Bacteria Like P. aeruginosa from Forming Biofilms

By: Alice Melao

A natural component found in cinnamon oil, known as cinnamaldehyde or CAD, may be able to prevent Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria from spreading in an organism and inhibit their ability to form antibiotic-resistant biofilms, researchers show.

These findings may support further study into anti-microbial medications that can help control the behavior of these so-called superbugs, or treatment-resistant bacteria, which represent a serious healthcare problem for people with cystic fibrosis and other diseases.

The discovery was reported in “Cinnamaldehyde disrupts biofilm formation and swarming motility of Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” published in the journal Microbiology.

“Humans have a long history of using natural products to treat infections, and there is a renewed focus on such antimicrobial compounds,” Sanjida Halim Topa, PhD, a researcher at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, and lead study author, said in a university news release. “Natural products may offer a promising solution to this problem.”

Cinnamaldehyde, one of the major components of cinnamon oil, is responsible for its characteristic flavor. This compound is known to have antimicrobial activity against many bacteria, including P. aeruginosa; a stomach ulcer-causing bacteria called Helicobacter pylori; and Listeria monocytogenes, which is responsible for the food-borne infection listeriosis.

“We hypothesized that using natural antimicrobials, such as essential oils, might interfere in [drug-resistant] biofilm formation,” Topa said. “Though many previous studies have reported antimicrobial activity of cinnamon essential oil, it is not widely used in the pharmaceutical industry.”

Working with researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the team conducted several experiments to evaluate the impact of different concentrations of cinnamaldehyde on P. aeruginosa biofilms.

They found that non-lethal amounts of the essential oil compound could disrupt by 75.6 % antibiotic-resistant, preformed P. aeruginosa biofilms. Cinnamaldehyde was found to prevent the production of a bacterial-signaling protein essential for bacteria communication and biofilm formation. [Biofilms, or microbe communities whose growth is facilitated by the thick and sticky mucus that marks CF, are known to promote antibiotic resistance in P. aeruginosa lung infections.]

In a concentration-dependent manner, cinnamaldehyde also could reduce the motility of the bacteria, preventing them from spreading elsewhere, the scientists reported.

These findings, the researchers wrote, show “CAD can disrupt biofilms and other surface colonization phenotypes through the modulation of intracellular signaling processes.”

They are now investigating the use of cinnamaldehyde embedded-wound dressings as a way to treat skin infections.

Original article here.

Anaerobic bacteria cultured from CF airways correlate to milder disease-a multisite study

Anaerobic and aerobic bacteria were quantitated in respiratory samples across three cystic fibrosis (CF) centres using extended culture methods. Subjects, ages 1–69 years, who were clinically stable provided sputum (n=200) or bronchoalveolar lavage (n=55). Eighteen anaerobic and 39 aerobic genera were cultured from 59% and 95% of samples, respectively; 16/57 genera had a ≥5% prevalence across centres. Analyses of microbial communities using co-occurrence networks in sputum samples showed groupings of oral, including anaerobic, bacteria whereas typical CF pathogens formed distinct entities. Pseudomonas was associated with worse nutrition and F508del genotype, whereas anaerobe prevalence was positively associated with pancreatic sufficiency, better nutrition and better lung function. A higher ratio of total anaerobe/total aerobe colony forming units was associated with pancreatic sufficiency and better nutrition. Subjects grouped by factor analysis who had relative dominance of anaerobes over aerobes had milder disease compared to a Pseudomonas-dominated group with similar proportions of subjects being homozygous for F508del. In summary, anaerobic bacteria occurred at an early age. In sputum producing subjects anaerobic bacteria were associated with milder disease suggesting that targeted eradication of anaerobes may not be warranted in sputum producing CF subjects.

Full article here.