n people with cystic fibrosis (CF), a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other
organs. The thick mucus in the lungs causes patients with CF to suffer from frequent lung infections. Two to three
times a year, symptoms worsen for a short period of time and antibiotic treatment and hospitalization is needed.
These episodes are called pulmonary exacerbations (PE). Over time, these exacerbations damage the lungs leading
to an increase in discomfort and eventually into death. Currently, pulmonary exacerbations are treated with
intensified airway clearance and antibiotics. Although antibiotics suppress the symptoms to some extent, they don’t
seem to solve the exacerbation. Some studies suggest that other microorganisms, next to bacteria, such as viruses
and fungi, might also play a role in these exacerbations. Recently, new technological advances, such as next
generation sequencing (NGS), provide the opportunity to identify not only the cultivable bacteria, but also viruses,
fungi and bacteria, not identified by standard culture.
In this study, we will use the technology of NGS to determine which microorganisms are present in the lungs before,
during and after an exacerbation. We will collect sputum samples of adult CF patients during several months. We will
compare the variation in bacterial and viral species between different patients and within one patient over the
course of an exacerbation. If we understand how microbial communities interact with the host and amongst
themselves, we could find new elements clarifying the mechanism behind exacerbations in CF. These new elements
can potentially redirect the treatment of CF exacerbations and can result in preventing the lung damage after every
exacerbation, which leads to morbidity and mortality.