mBio (Dec 2021)

Combining Ivacaftor and Intensive Antibiotics Achieves Limited Clearance of Cystic Fibrosis Infections

  • Samantha L. Durfey,
  • Sudhakar Pipavath,
  • Anna Li,
  • Anh T. Vo,
  • Anina Ratjen,
  • Suzanne Carter,
  • Sarah J. Morgan,
  • Matthew C. Radey,
  • Brenda Grogan,
  • Stephen J. Salipante,
  • Michael J. Welsh,
  • David A. Stoltz,
  • Christopher H. Goss,
  • Edward F. McKone,
  • Pradeep K. Singh

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 6


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ABSTRACT Drugs called CFTR modulators improve the physiologic defect underlying cystic fibrosis (CF) and alleviate many disease manifestations. However, studies to date indicate that chronic lung infections that are responsible for most disease-related mortality generally persist. Here, we investigated whether combining the CFTR modulator ivacaftor with an intensive 3.5-month antibiotic course could clear chronic Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Staphylococcus aureus lung infections in subjects with R117H-CFTR, who are highly ivacaftor-responsive. Ivacaftor alone improved CFTR activity, and lung function and inflammation within 48 h, and reduced P. aeruginosa and S. aureus pathogen density by ∼10-fold within a week. Antibiotics produced an additional ∼10-fold reduction in pathogen density, but this reduction was transient in subjects who remained infected. Only 1/5 P. aeruginosa-infected and 1/7 S. aureus-infected subjects became persistently culture-negative after the combined treatment. Subjects appearing to clear infection did not have particularly favorable baseline lung function or inflammation, pathogen density or antibiotic susceptibility, or bronchiectasis scores on CT scans, but they did have remarkably low sweat chloride values before and after ivacaftor. All persistently P. aeruginosa-positive subjects remained infected by their pretreatment strain, whereas subjects persistently S. aureus-positive frequently lost and gained strains. This work suggests chronic CF infections may resist eradication despite marked and rapid modulator-induced improvements in lung infection and inflammation parameters and aggressive antibiotic treatment. IMPORTANCE Recent work shows that people with CF and chronic lung infections generally remain persistently infected after treatment with drugs that target the CF physiological defect (called CFTR modulators). However, changes produced by modulators could increase antibiotic efficacy. We tested the approach of combining modulators and intensive antibiotics in rapid succession and found that while few subjects cleared their infections, combined treatment appeared most effective in subjects with the highest CFTR activity. These findings highlight challenges that remain to improve the health of people with CF.