Research suggests that cystic fibrosis contributes to low birth weight

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Newly published research funded by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust has shown that babies with cystic fibrosis (CF) are born weighing less than babies without the condition, even allowing that they are more likely to be born prematurely.

Research conducted by Dr Daniela Schlüter as part of the Trust’s CF-EpiNet Strategic Research Centre (SRC), has shown that having CF results in lower than average birth weight, revealing the need for further research into how CF affects the development of babies in the womb.


This research, published in July in Thorax, a world-leading respiratory medicine journal, indicates that, while babies with CF are often born prematurely, this only accounts for around 40% of the effect on birth weight. This means that the CF mutation could also have an effect on the way babies develop within the womb. These results may be the first step to understanding and improving the health of babies with CF before they are born.

This study has used databases for Wales and Denmark to begin investigating the effects of socio-economic deprivation on outcomes in cystic fibrosis. These databases contain anonymous information from the whole population across these countries, containing data on 2.2 million babies, of whom around 850 had cystic fibrosis.

Why is this important?

Poor nutrition and slow growth are common features in babies with CF, and both can have an impact on the lung function and survival of those babies in the future.

 As with the general population, babies born with CF from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds are lighter than those born from more affluent backgrounds. This is in addition to the effects of CF on birth weight found in this study.

The CF-EpiNet SRC allows researchers to use and enhance the data within the Trust’s UK CF Registry to tell us more about what happens when you live with cystic fibrosis. Looking at socio-economic inequalities in CF is one of the aims of the SRC, as Rebecca Cosgriff, Registry Lead explains:

“Currently, we do not know how birth weight affects future health in cystic fibrosis. The next stage of the research will be to link the databases used in this study with the UK CF Registry. This will add in more CF-specific information and may give further insight.

“A direct result of this study could be that birth weight is added to the data collected by the UK CF Registry from people with CF (or their guardians, if under 18) who choose to share it.

By investigating the possible link between factors that cause low birth weight and adult health outcomes, we hope to be able to find ways to address these inequalities and give parents of babies with CF hope for a brighter future.” 

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