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The Most Common Organisms in Cystic Fibrosis Lung Infections

Getting to Know Your Enemy

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Updated April 30, 2014

Lung damage caused by repeated respiratory infections is the leading cause of death for people with cystic fibrosis. Getting to know some of the infections you may face can help you prepare for the challenges ahead and plan strategies to minimize your risks. The following organisms don’t occur very often in healthy people, but they are especially troublesome for those with CF.

1. Aspergillus

Aspergillus is a fungus that occurs commonly in the environment, so it is difficult if not impossible to avoid coming in contact with. For most people, aspergillus is harmless but for 15% of the people who have cystic fibrosis, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called ABPA.

2. Pseudomonas Aeruginosa

More than half of all people with cystic fibrosis will battle a lung infection caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa at some point in their lives. In fact, it is the most commonly occurring organism in CF-related lung infections. Thus, P. aeruginosa is also the bacteria responsible for the death of many people with CF.

3. Burkholderia Cepacia

Burkholderia cepacia, which used to be called Pseudomonas cepacia, is a rare but significant threat to people who have cystic fibrosis. While the odds are in your favor that you'll never encounter Burkholderia cepacia, you should have a basic understanding of what it is and how to reduce your risk of getting it.

4. MRSA

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), is becoming an increasingly common complication in people with cystic fibrosis. MRSA can be found on the skin, in wounds, in urine, and many other parts of the body but the lungs are the most common site of MRSA infection in those with CF.

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