A wide variety of bacteria, including two "predators" not detected before, exist in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, according to a new study of lung microorganisms published Tuesday in mBio, an online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Using a laboratory technique called next-generation sequencing, a group of investigators from Madrid, Spain, studied the bacterial makeup of sputum samples provided by 15 cystic fibrosis patients three to four times over the course of a year.
They found that 156 types of bacteria in the samples, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Burkholderia and Pandorea and that Each patient had his or her own bacterial makeup that remained relatively steady over the study period.
What surprised researchers was also finding two types of predator bacteria among the samples.
Vampirovibrio, a bacteria that destroys cells by sucking out its contents, was found in 17 samples from 12 patients, while Bdellovibrio, which enters cells and feeds on its proteins, was found in six samples from three patients.
The two types were found together in only one patient.
The investigators hypothesized that the predators, in the early stage of disease, may prevent the colonization of bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa normally associated with cystic fibrosis.
"Predator bacteria are ubiquitous and usually found in environmental aquatic ecosystems," said senior study author Rosa del Campo, of the Microbiology Service at Ramon y Cayal University Hospital. "In humans, a recent study has found them in the intestinal microbiota of healthy individuals and in patients with cystic fibrosis."
The findings indicated that "the lung microbiota in cystic fibrosis patients is more complex than we believed," she said. "Our study suggests that predatory bacteria could be used as a therapeutic strategy to reduce the bacterial load of the lungs of these patients."
Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body. It's an inherited disorder, and while there has been significant progress in treating this disease, there is still no cure and daily care is required for those affected.