One in 2,500 babies is born with CF each year and about 1 in 31 Americans is a carrier of the affected gene but shows no symptoms. 10 million people do not know that they carry the problem gene. To develop the disease, the baby must inherit altered genes from both parents.
Cystic Fibrosis is caused by a damaged gene that results in abnormalities of the glands that produce sweat and mucous. Thick mucous secretions block airways of the lungs and interfere with the absorption of nutrients from the intestines. The disease can affect many other organs such as the pancreas resulting in Diabetes.
Children born with Cystic Fibrosis are usually diagnosed within the first year. Because of the problem with the sweat glands, their skin tastes salty. They may have a chronic cough and develop poorly. Sometimes they may have a blockage of the small intestine. A sweat test that demonstrates excess sodium in the sweat is used to diagnose CF.
Cystic Fibrosis is one of those diseases that differs from person to person. One may have an array of symptoms while another has only one. This is due to the fact that any one of over 800 changes in the gene can cause the disease.
Some patients with CF may have problems getting proper nutrition due to the excess mucous in the intestine. Nutritionists recommend a diet high in calories, low in fat, and high in protein. Patients also
need to take extra vitamins A, D, E, and K as well as enzymes to help digestion.
At this time, Cystic Fibrosis can neither be prevented nor cured. The genetic problem was only identified in 1989. Since then, research has grown and produced exciting results. The drug Pulmozime thins the mucous and reduces respiratory infections. An inhaled form of an antibiotic, TOBI, has already reduced lung complications and subsequent hospitalizations in CF.
The future holds great promise. The recent finding that the bacteria in the lungs can morph into an antibiotic-resistant form called a Bio-Film holds great promise for future treatments and prevention of devastating infections. Prevention will be achieved with gene therapy. This is in the research stage now. It may be possible in the future to test for the damaged gene and then repair it before it does significant damage.
On May 18th, the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will hold a ‘Great Strides" walk to raise money for future research. For more information on the walk, call Kelli McElhone at (806) 793-9651.
More information on CF can be found at: