Strategic Research Centre: Mycobacterium abscessus

Tackling Mycobacterium abscessus infection in cystic fibrosis.

The most serious emerging threat to the health of people with cystic fibrosis comes from the increasing rates of infection with the multidrug resistant nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) Mycobacterium abscessus (M. abscessus). People with M. abscessus become ineligible to receive a lung transplant.

Led by Professor Andres Floto at the University of Cambridge, this Strategic Research Centre (SRC) aims to use the genetic code of M. abscessus bugs isolated from people with cystic fibrosis around the world to:

  • Work out how it spreads and how we can prevent it spreading;
  • Identify why some strains cause more lung damage than others; and
  • Explore new leads that might be developed into drugs to treat M. abscessus infection more effectively.

Through this research, we will be able to better understand how M. abscessus spreads, track cross-infection events rapidly, and identify people infected with harmful strains and so potentially begin treatment earlier and combat more aggressively.

Lead Principal Investigator (PI): Dr Andres Floto (University of Cambridge)


  • Prof Julian Parkhill (Sanger Institute)
  • Prof Sir Tom Blundell (University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Marko Hyvonen (University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Diane Ordway (Colorado State University)
  • Dr Mary Jackson (Colorado State University)

Research update

In November 2015, Professor Floto and his team reported back on the first year of their project.

The team identified a number of strains called dominant circulating clones (DCCs) that have spread across continents and seem to cause infection. The team is now looking to establish what genetic changes led to these DCCs becoming stronger and more harmful.

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Cystic fibrosis, or CF, affects the lungs, digestive system and other organs, and there are over 10,600 people living with it in the UK.

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