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Research and Animal Welfare

Providing Better Health for People with Cystic Fibrosis

Patients with cystic fibrosis — an inherited chronic disease — are often artificially ventilated for long periods of time. Artificial ventilation results in an increased risk of lung infection that is resistant to antibiotics. UVM researchers are investigating new ways to combat this bacterium.

How are they doing this?

Because the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa forms biofilms, infections are particularly difficult to treat with conventional antibiotic therapy. Using a mouse model of Pseudomonas pneumonia, UVM researchers in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics are investigating novel non-antibiotic substances which appear to increase the bacteria's susceptibility to antibiotics.

Why are animals important?

Most fatalities in cystic fibrosis patients are due to respiratory failure and pneumonia. Drugs used to treat pneumonia do undergo testing in vitro — the classic sensitivity test measures an antibiotic's ability to suppress bacteria in culture. However, bacteria growing in the lung of a living animal or person can be much more difficult to control than those growing in a petri dish. Testing of antibiotics and other products in vivo (in a living animal system) is necessary to effectively predict the drugs' performance in patients with pneumonia.

What are the significant outcomes of this research?

Cystic fibrosis is one of our most prevalent debilitating genetic diseases. About 30,000 people in the U.S. are affected by cystic fibrosis. The average life span of a person with cystic fibrosis is about 37 years, which has increased dramatically in the past three decades due to research and improvements in therapy.

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