The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is funding up to $3.9 million to TB Alliance to conduct preclinical studies of a compound that could be used to treat infections caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

These infections often require antibiotic treatment for more than a year with no guarantee of success.

“The prevalence of NTM infections has increased globally in the last decade, and current treatments can cause hearing loss and problems with kidney function, so we need safer, more effective alternatives for people with CF,” Tiffany Burnett, senior director of biopharma programs at the CF Foundation (CFF), said in a press release.

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A set of lungs are breathing heavily in this illustration.

NTM are a group of bacteria that live in soil and water sources that can cause serious lung infections in exposed individuals. They are mycobacteria other than M. tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis, and M. leprae — the cause of leprosy.

People with CF are particularly susceptible to lung infections due to the accumulation of abnormally thick, sticky mucus in the airways. Recurring infections in CF patients cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and trigger inflammation that gradually damages lung tissue.

Antibiotics can be taken to prevent, control, or eliminate respiratory infections, helping to maintain CF patients’ lung function and quality of life. However, infections caused by NTM can be difficult to treat.

“The Foundation has been pursuing better therapies for difficult-to-treat bacteria, such as NTM, which pose a serious threat to people with CF,” said Burnett, who also is co-lead of the CFF’s Infection Research Initiative.

TB Alliance received up to $ 5.1 million from CFF in 2019 to identify and test potential treatments for NTM infections. With the contribution of this funding, they identified a new oxazolidinone compound — an engineered antibiotic that disrupts the production of bacterial proteins.

This potential therapy is expected to be safer and more effective than linezolid, another oxazolidinone antibiotic currently used to treat infections caused by M. abscessus (another type of NTM).

Other NTM research projects

The CFF also supports PREDICT (NCT02073409) and PATIENCE (NCT02419989), two ongoing observational studies at National Jewish Health in Colorado that are seeking to improve NTM diagnosis and treatment.

Since the launch of the Infection Research Initiative in 2018, the CFF has awarded more than $128 million to improve the detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of CF-related infections.

The TB Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the discovery, development, and delivery of more effective and affordable treatments for tuberculosis.

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