Cystic Fibrosis - Management

Management

While there are no cures for cystic fibrosis there are several treatment methods. The management of cystic fibrosis has improved significantly over the past 70 years. While infants born with cystic fibrosis 70 years ago would have been unlikely to live beyond their first year, infants today are likely to live well into adulthood. Recent advances in the treatment of cystic fibrosis have meant that an individual with cystic fibrosis can live a fuller life less encumbered by their condition. The cornerstones of management are proactive treatment of airway infection, and encouragement of good nutrition and an active lifestyle. Management of cystic fibrosis continues throughout a patient's life, and is aimed at maximizing organ function, and therefore quality of life. At best, current treatments delay the decline in organ function. Because of the wide variation in disease symptoms treatment typically occurs at specialist multidisciplinary centers, and is tailored to the individual. Targets for therapy are the lungs, gastrointestinal tract (including pancreatic enzyme supplements), the reproductive organs (including assisted reproductive technology (ART)) and psychological support.

The most consistent aspect of therapy in cystic fibrosis is limiting and treating the lung damage caused by thick mucus and infection, with the goal of maintaining quality of life. Intravenous, inhaled, and oral antibiotics are used to treat chronic and acute infections. Mechanical devices and inhalation medications are used to alter and clear the thickened mucus. These therapies, while effective, can be extremely time-consuming for the patient. One of the most important battles that CF patients face is finding the time to comply with prescribed treatments while balancing a normal life.

In addition, therapies such as transplantation and gene therapy aim to cure some of the effects of cystic fibrosis. Gene therapy aims to introduce normal CFTR to airway. Theoretically this process should be simple as the airway is easily accessible and there is only a single gene defect to correct. There are two CFTR gene introduction mechanisms involved, the first use of a viral vector (adenovirus, adeno-associated virus or retro virus) and secondly the use of liposome. However there are some problems associated with these methods involving efficiency (liposomes insufficient protein) and delivery (virus provokes an immune response).

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