Research we're funding into understanding and treating lung infections

People with cystic fibrosis (CF) are susceptible to lung infections. They can be hard to detect and also hard to treat, as some infections are becoming resistant to antimicrobial medicines. We’re funding research into different strategies to detect, understand and treat CF infections more effectively.

Lung infections can be difficult to treat and can lead to long stays in hospital receiving medicines with unpleasant side effects. Left untreated, these infections can trigger permanent lung damage, meaning people are more breathless and have less energy to do day-to-day activities.

Early evidence from studies of people taking CFTR modulators such as Kaftrio shows lung infections can be harder to detect than for those not on modulators and infections continue to require treatment.

To tackle lung infections, we’re funding research into the following topics:

  • Earlier diagnosis

    Early diagnosis of infections can mean shorter courses of treatment and less lung damage for people with CF.

    Getting an early diagnosis of an infection is a balance of testing for the presence of the infection at the right time, gathering a sample to test for infection, getting a speedy response when people are tested and then being confident that the test is accurate.

    Through our Personalised approach to Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PAPA)’ Strategic Research Centre (SRC) we’re funding novel ways to detect Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), including using medical detection dogs to positively identify infected samples, and testing for the presence of infection in the breath of people with CF. We’re co-funding projects to develop rapid point of care tests for P. aeruginosa and the fungal infection Aspergillus fumigatus through our Venture and Innovation Awards.

    Read more about research we’re funding on this topic, through our strategic research centre (SRC) and Venture and Innovation Award (VIA) funding schemes:

    SRC on a personalised approach to Pseudomonas aeruginosa

    VIAs on point of care tests for infections

  • Understanding how infections work

    Due to antimicrobial resistance, we’re running out of effective treatments for the bugs that affect people with CF. The Trust is funding research to develop the next generation of treatments and to do this, we need to understand:

    • how the bugs grow and survive;
    • why do they do so well in the CF lung;
    • what effect one infection has on another; and
    • what makes infection-causing bugs so dominant in the presence of so many ‘good’ bacteria within the lung microbiome.

    Dr Martin’s Welch’s SRC is looking at why P. aeruginosa can take such a hold in the CF lung in comparison to healthy lungs. His team are investigating how much energy the bug needs and which of the hundreds of biochemical reactions underway in P. aeruginosa are essential for its growth in the CF lung.

    P. aeruginosa  infection involves thousands of individual P. aeruginosa  bacteria working together. When their population increases above a certain level, they change their activities and organise a slimy defensive shield known as a ‘biofilm’ to protect themselves from attack by the body’s natural defences and from antibiotics. Research we’re funding within our Venture and Innovation Awards is investigating more about these strategies and how they can be overcome.

    Also working on P. aeruginosa , Professor Jane Davies and colleagues within the ‘Personalised approach to Pseudomonas’ SRC are investigating the ‘survival strategies’ of the bug, including how it works to dominate other bacteria and fight off the body’s attempts to clear the infection.

    In treating both P. aeruginosa  and NTM infections, it’s important to understand the balance of targeting the disease-causing infections, without eliminating other ‘good’ bacteria that can reduce the lung damaging effects – in other words, finding out whether antibiotics kill their bacterial allies in ‘friendly fire’. We’re funding a number of VIA projects investigating the balance of bacteria within the lungs.

    Read more about research we’re funding on this topic, through our strategic research centre (SRC) and Venture and Innovation Award (VIA) funding schemes:

    SRC on a Personalised approach to Pseudomonas

    SRC understanding the requirements of Pseudomonas in the CF lung

    VIAs increasing our understanding of infections

    Research in focus report on Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections

  • Better ways to treat infections

    Within our CF Innovation Hub at University of Cambridge researchers are systematically studying the genetic makeup of two of the most serious CF lung infections, P. aeruginosa  and M. abscessus (one of the NTM group of infections), to increase understanding of how they damage the CF lung. These results are shared within the Innovation Hub team where new medicines can be ‘built’ from scratch using cutting edge ‘fragment-based drug design’ (FBDD) approaches. FBDD is method of joining together groups of small chemicals (fragments) to design a more effective medicine.

    While it holds great promise, designing new drugs from scratch is a lengthy and expensive process. Another approach to finding new ways to treat infections is to use drugs developed for other conditions. For example our ‘Targeting immunotherapy for fungal infections’ SRC is addressing different stages of the infection and aiming to reduce the inflammation triggered by Aspergillus fumigatus using existing immunotherapies, rather than killing the fungi itself.

    A medicine called glatiramer acetate, which treats multiple sclerosis (MS) is also being tested to see if it can increase the effectiveness of existing antibiotics for treating P. aeruginosa  infection.

    Sometimes known as ‘antibiotic resistance breakers’, drugs that increase the effectiveness of existing antibiotics are another active area of research that the Trust is supporting biotech companies to develop through our Venture and Innovation Awards.

    Read more about research we’re funding on this topic, through our strategic research centre (SRC) and Venture and Innovation Award (VIA) funding schemes:

    SRC on a personalised approach to Pseudomonas

    SRC on targeting immunotherapy for fungal infections

    VIAs on developing novel ways to treat lung infections

    CF Innovation Hub at University of Cambridge

  • Testing promising medicines in the lab

    After researchers have found a chemical or compound could have potential benefit as a treatment, the next step is converting that promising chemical into a new medicine. This is done by doing lots of rigorous tests, known as the ‘pre-clinical phase’ of development. If the results of the testing are positive, the medicine will then be tested in clinical trials.

    As no single laboratory test can mimic everything that may happen in people, many different versions of these tests are completed to be as sure as the researchers can be that the medicine will be safe and effective. For some medicines, the tests have already been developed. However, for medicines for new conditions or rare diseases such as treating CF lung infections, new tests have to be designed.

    The aim of PIPE-CF Strategic Research Centre is to by create and check new pre-clinical methods to test the effectiveness of new CF antibiotic medicines. This will make it easier for researchers to develop new antibiotics specifically designed to treat CF lung infections.

    Read more about research we’re funding on this topic, through our strategic research centre (SRC)and Venture and Innovation Award (VIA) funding schemes:

    PIPE CF Strategic Research Centre

Research we fund

We fund research to tackle some of the most pressing issues in CF today. Find out how your donations are making a difference.

What is CF?

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, affects the lungs, digestive system and other organs. There are around 11,000 people living with it in the UK.

Contact us

Get in touch with us to speak to someone on our Helpline, find out about an event or speak to our press team.

Your donation will make a difference:

Select amount
Select amount