A recent Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study finds people suffering from cystic fibrosis have a high risk of chronic pneumonia because mucus that builds up in the lungs allows bacteria to grow rapidly.
Researchers looked at how a protein called MgtE impacts signals sent to bacteria that tell them where and when to form biofilms.
IUPUI Associate Professor Gregory Anderson says these biofilms, thin slimy films of bacteria, protect bacteria from the cystic fibrosis patient’s immune system and antibiotics, making the bacteria hard to kill.
“They surround themselves with a matrix of polysaccharide and DNA and protein and it provides protection from them, from being eaten by predators in the environment,” Anderson says.
Anderson says this is one of the first times scientists have identified a link between a protein in the membrane of bacteria and what causes biofilms to form.
“We think that magnesium limitation can stimulate certain factors which then impact the biofilm formation process,” he says. “And that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Cystic fibrosis patients who suffer from infections can experience breathing problems that can lead to serious strain on the lungs and heart.