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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Nutritional Well-Being After Transplant Measure of Likely Lung Health

By Joana Carvalho

The study, “Impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function after lung transplantation for cystic fibrosis,” was published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal.

CF is the third most common cause for lung transplants worldwide (16.8 percent of all cases). Although the disease is mostly associated with respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal complications are also known to afflict patients, such as diarrhea, constipation, malnutrition, and inflammation in the pancreas, liver and intestines.

Previous studies suggest that malnutrition is linked to a poor prognosis in those needing a lung transplant. However, data on the impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function in those who have received a transplant is still quite limited.

In a retrospective study, a team of researchers at the Medical University of Vienna set out to evaluate the impact of nutritional status on pulmonary function of CF patients who underwent a double lung transplant within a median of 2.3 years.

Patients’ nutritional status was assessed using two different criteria: body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), and body composition measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) — a technique that allows researchers to estimate body composition, especially fat content, by calculating the resistance posed by body tissues to the passage of an electrical current.

Lung health was analyzed by spirometry, a common test based on the amount of air a person can inhale and quickly exhale.

Investigators analyzed a total of 147 spirometries and BIAs performed on 58 CF patients (median age, 30.1), who were divided into four groups depending on their BMI scores. These groups were set according to BMI the guidelines defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), were: malnutrition (less than 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (25.0–29.9 kg/m2), or obese (more than 30 kg/m2).

Data showed that malnourished patients (27.6%) had a significantly poorer in lung function than those of normal weight (63.8%) or overweight (8.6%), as measured by the percentage of forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1% predicted, 57% vs 77%), and the percentage of maximum vital capacity (percent predicted, 62% vs 75%).

Investigators also found that lung function measured by FEV1% worsened over time in malnourished patients (decreasing by up to 15%), unlike normal weight and overweight individuals. In these patients, FEV1% remained stable throughout the observation period (median of 10.3 months).

Further analysis also showed that the ratio of extracellular mass (ECM) over body cell mass (BCM), as measured by BIA, accurately predicted lung function over time in CF transplant recipients, suggesting that BIA is superior to BMI in predicting patients’ pulmonary function.

The team concluded “nutritional status assessed by BIA predicted lung function in CF transplant recipients,” and suggested that “BIA represents a non-invasive, safe, fast, mobile, and easy-to-use procedure to evaluate body composition. Thus, it may be used in everyday clinical practice and bears the advantage of repeatability at every patient follow-up.”

The researchers also emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary patient care provided by dietitians and gastroenterologists to try and prevent or diminish malnourishment in CF patients, and so help preserve lung function after a transplant.

Original article here. 

Antibiotic plus probiotic combination may kill off superbugs

By 

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

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.

Omega-3 Compound Reduces Inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis Patients in New Pilot Study

By Jennifer Prince

A marine omega-3 compound comprising a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) sn1-monoacylglyceride (MAG-DHA) may act as an anti-inflammatory for subjects with cystic fibrosis, according to a new pilot study1 published in the journal Marine Drugs. In the study, MaxSimil (Neptune Wellness Solutions; Laval, QC, Canada) increased omega-3 red blood cell levels, helped moderate the ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to docosahexaenoic acid, and reduced key inflammatory biomarkers in subjects with cystic fibrosis. Continue reading Omega-3 Compound Reduces Inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis Patients in New Pilot Study

Cystic Fibrosis Disease Severity Linked to Immune Overreaction to Fungus, Study Reports

By Ana Pena

Disease severity in cystic fibrosis (CF) may be associated with an overreaction of the immune system to the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus, particularly due to a type of white blood cell called a phagocyte — which ingests and kills invading organisms — a study suggests.

U.K. researchers found that phagocytes from CF patients release higher amounts of harmful reactive oxygen species in response to Aspergillus fumigatus, a common cause of lung infection in these patients.

The study, “Aspergillus-induced superoxide production by cystic fibrosis phagocytes is associated with disease severity,” was published in the journal ERC Open Research.

Recent studies have supported the idea that the widespread environmental fungus Aspergillus fumigatus may play a critical role in CF lung disease.

Up to 58% of CF patients are colonized with this fungus, and an estimated 47.7% of adult patients are affected by either allergic reactions or infection caused by the fungus.

Persistent infections with A. fumigatus are also known to be adversely correlated with lung function and hospitalization in CF patients.

Researchers hypothesized that the anti-fungal defense mechanism in CF patients might be altered and have an impact on the progression of lung disease.

To investigate this hypothesis, the team compared the immune response of phagocytes from CF patients with those of healthy individuals used as controls, and tried to correlate them to clinical metrics of disease severity.

For original article please visit CF News Today.

You have a new set of lungs! What should you expect next?

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 183:
The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis
By Jerry Cahill
In the latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center is back to explain what happens after a patient has a double lung transplant. He discusses pain management and the post-transplant care team in detail.
Here’s what to expect immediately pre and post-surgery:
  • Post-surgical care including pain management
  • Medical care that includes antibiotics, antirejection medication, and anti-infection medication
  • Psycho-social recovery assistance
Dr. Arcasoy also explains who your post-transplant care team is and what they do… it’s a lot, so here’s a cheat sheet:
WHO: Medical Transplant Pulmonologist and the Coordinator
WHAT:
Patients will meet with their Post-transplant team once a week for three months, then every 3-4 weeks for a year. At every meeting, the following occurs:
  • Chest x-ray
  • Lab work
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Physical exam
  • Conversation to review medications and overall health & wellness
  • Follow up lab review and medication changes
The schedule for bronchoscopies vary depending on the center, and additional testing can be added at any time deemed necessary.
Remember – every patient’s experience is completely unique! Do not get discouraged; and work with your care team to prepare both mentally and physically for the bumps along the way.

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medical Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

You got the call for transplant… Now what happens?

Cystic Fibrosis Podcast 182:
The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis
In Jerry Cahill’s latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. D’Ovidio and Dr. Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center explain what happens once a patient receives the official phone call for his or her transplant.
They explain dry runs, the transplant surgery, a patient’s first breath, and more! Keep in mind; the overall transplant experience varies greatly among patients, as each case is completely unique.
This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medical Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

Ground-Breaking Procedure. A major step for science, medicine, the human condition

by Mary Bulman; Independent UK

“Woman spends record six days without lungs thanks to ground-breaking procedure”

Yes you’ve read that correctly.
Yes, it reads six days.

A true miracle! Definitely an understatement.

Though it’s been over a year since this procedure was carried out, it’s one that I believe cannot be shared enough. A huge step for medicine and science- but perhaps a larger one for the human condition and the willingness to live and fight.

“I still don’t believe it happened. It seems very surreal.” says patient Melissa Benoit.
And that’s because it is, Ms. Benoit.

After coming down with the flu the last year 2016, Ms. Benoit was taken from her home in Burlington, Canada to the ICU in a nearby hospital located right outside of Toronto, Canada.  Doctor’s made the spilt decision to go through with a first time procedure in order to save her life. After becoming resistant to most antibiotics, bacteria began to move throughout her body, eventually causing her to lapse into septic shock. One by one her organs started shutting down, due to the decline of her blood pressure.

“Although it had never been carried out before, doctors decided to remove her lungs entirely.”

“What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die,” said Dr Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons who operated on her. “That gave us the courage to say — if we’re ever going to save this woman, we’re going to do it now.”

To learn more about Ms. Benoit and the new breed of surgery that was carried out please continue onto the article below:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/woman-six-days-without-lungs-waiting-list-donor-organ-burlington-ontario-melissa-benoit-world-first-a7547936.html

Potential Therapy for Infections in CF Gets Patent

AB569Arch Biopartners’ treatment candidate for bacterial infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory conditions, has received a U.S. patent.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 9,925,206 to the University of Cincinnati, which granted Arch Biopartners an exclusive commercial license on all patents related to AB569. The inventor is Daniel Hassett, PhD, a principal scientist at Arch and professor at the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine.

“This patent issuance, which protects the composition of AB569, gives Arch a stronger commercial position to pursue treating not just CF patients, but also the millions of other patients that have chronic antibiotic resistant lung infections including those with COPD,” Richard Muruve, CEO of Arch, said in a press release. “It also opens the door for Arch to develop treatments for many other indications where antibiotic resistance is a problem, such as urinary tract infections and wound care.”

Bacterial infections in the lungs are a serious problem in patients with CF, COPD, or ventilator-associated pneumonia. Cystic fibrosis patients are susceptible to bacterial respiratory infections as a result of abnormal mucus production in the lungs and airways.

In particular, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) affects most adult CF patients and 40 percent of CF children ages 6 to 10. The mucoid form of P. aeruginosa is highly resistant to conventional antibiotics and immune-mediated killing. It causes a rapid decline in lung function and a poor overall clinical prognosis.

Antibiotic use in the treatment of CF and COPD patients with chronic bacterial respiratory infections is increasing, which correlates with a higher prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains.

AB569 is a non-antibiotic therapy made of sodium nitrite and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), two compounds approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use. The treatment has a different mechanism of action from antibiotics that may increase effectiveness, Arch believes.

“AB569 has two active ingredients that produce a dramatic and synergistic effect at killing many antibiotic resistant bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), which commonly causes severe chronic infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients,” Hassett said. “AB569 has the potential to make a significant medical impact on treating infection where traditional antibiotics fail.”

In preclinical experiments, the therapy showed significant ability to kill several types of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria.

The safety and pharmacokinetics of a single administration of nebulized AB569 are now being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial with up to 25 healthy volunteers at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVAMC). Pharmacokinetics refers to how a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and expelled by the body. Enrollment of volunteers started in February.

If the Phase 1 study provides positive results, the company plans to start a Phase 2 trial to test the effectiveness of AB569 in the treatment of chronic lung infections caused by P. aeruginosa and other bacterial pathogens in CF and/or COPD patients.

AB569 previously received orphan drug status from the FDA for the treatment of CF patients infected with P. aeruginosa, and orphan medicinal product designation from the European Medicines Agency.

For original article, click here.