A drug derived from Norwegian seaweed may help increase the life expectancy of people with cystic fibrosis, which currently averages about 40 years. The Norwegian company AlgiPharma presented OligoG at the 37th European Cystic Fibrosis Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden recently, revealing that the drug has an active ingredient — a purified type of alginate — that might help dissolve the excess, sticky mucus caused by the disease.
The purified type of alginate is a carbohydrate found in the cellular walls of Norwegian seaweed, and if it diminishes the mucus, it might be able to prevent the problems it causes, which include indigestion and vulnerability of the lungs to bacterial infections that can be deadly. The clinical trial, held in several hospitals in the UK and Ireland in collaboration with AlgiPharma, enrolled 26 CF patients and assessed that the drug was safe and caused no side effects.
The drug works by binding to the calcium present in the mucus, which is one of the reasons for its abnormal density, allowing it to become more thin and able to be expelled. It is “a unique drug and the first that works in this way,” said Anna Ermund, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg involved in the project.
“This discovery promises hope to the thousands of families desperate for an effective treatment for CF,” said the chief executive of UK charity Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Ed Owen. “Life expectancy has improved in recent years but it’s unacceptable that half of patients still won’t see their 40th birthday.”
The compound is already used in over-the-counter heartburn medication, as Gaviscon, and as a food thickener. However, it was also stated during the presentation that more studies are needed to prove its efficiency. If proved positive, the inhaled OligoG may be available to patients in three years.
“We aren’t talking about a cure, but there is a very real possibility it will soon become a manageable illness, on a par with type 1 diabetes,” stated the director of research for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Dr. Janet Allen, about the several experiments behind held.
The 37th European Cystic Fibrosis Conference, held in Gothenburg, Sweden, gathered leading CF caregivers and researchers, including recognized names in CF research, such as ECFS President and Cystic Fibrosis Trust Trustee Professor Stuart Elborn. During the four day program, several novel projects were presented, as Cystic Fibrosis News Today reported.
However, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has already alerted CF patients on the use of complementary therapeutic approaches for the disease, which are often considered controversial. Recently, the Foundation warned against claimed properties of peppermint oil for killing a bacteria that frequently affects CF patients, without use of antibiotics.