Cystic Fibrosis: Associated Conditions

Reviewed by Jerry A. Nick, MD

Drug-Resistant Bacteria

People with cystic fibrosis (CF) may develop chronic infection of their lungs by a variety of different bacteria. Some people with CF become infected by a drug resistant bacteria, Burkholderia cepacia (B. cepacia), which can occasionally be spread from person to person or object to person. This is of great concern because of the limited number of antibiotics available to fight the bacteria. This page is designed to educate you about what you can do to avoid contracting or spreading B. cepacia.

The primary goal is to prevent transmission of B. cepacia between CF patients. Patients with CF can be tested for B. cepacia when their sputum is cultured. Ask your healthcare provider what you grew in your sputum.

B. cepacia is not a health risk to people with a normal immune response, including healthcare workers.

Please practice the following guidelines to prevent the spread of B. cepacia:

  • The best way to prevent infection is good hand washing with soap and water.
    Hand washing should be done before and after contact with others, or contact with objects or surfaces that have become contaminated with respiratory secretions. Not only do patients have to wash their hands, but nurses, doctors, therapists, and aides do as well.

  • Use common sense and practice good hygiene when in the clinic or hospital.
    Use a tissue to cover your mouth when coughing and be sure to throw the tissues away after coughing in them. Wash your hands after coughing, particularly before coming in contact with other people with CF.

  • People who have B. cepacia should avoid close contact with other people with CF.
    It is difficult to suddenly stop seeing old friends; however, try to limit your contact, and definitely avoid transferring respiratory secretions. The telephone, or email, may be ways to continue communication.

  • If you have B. cepacia, try to avoid sitting in a waiting area with other people with CF.
    Whenever possible, try to schedule your clinic visit at the end of the day. After checking in, you should be escorted directly to an exam room. If this is not possible, you will be asked to have a seat in the waiting area. If it becomes necessary for you to share a waiting area with other people with CF, you should wear a mask to aid in the control of your respiratory secretions.

In addition to B. cepacia, Pseudonomas and other bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.

Clinical Trials

Impact of Combination Therapy on Cystic Fibrosis (TEACH Study)

The purpose of this study is to determine how two medications, azithromycin and inhaled tobramycin, work when taken together to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) patients with chronic pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) lung infections.

Learn More