CF Foundation Awards $2.76M to Research Differing COVID-19 Effects on Patients

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by Forest Ray PhD |

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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) has awarded $2.76 million to fund 11 laboratory studies exploring the effects of COVID-19 on people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

The hope is that a better understanding of why differences in COVID-19 severity exist among people with CF will ultimately lead to improved treatments, the CFF said in a press release.

A recent global study of 181 CF patients in 19 countries found that COVID-19 outcomes were less severe overall than anticipated, but that individuals with advanced lung disease and those with lung transplants stood higher risks of more severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death.

Through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, the CFF monitors COVID-19 cases among CF patients in the U.S. Composed of 133 care centers and more than 30,000 individuals with the disease, the registry compiles information on nearly the entire U.S. CF population.

As of Dec. 3, the registry had recorded 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases among CF patients. Three of these cases resulted in deaths — one in an individual with advanced lung disease and two in post-transplant patients.

The CFF-funded studies, all running approximately for two years, will investigate whether there are biological differences in how people with CF become infected and in how they respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Several groups from Italy and the United States plan to explore how chronic inflammation, mucus, and different mutations in the CFTR gene — which cause CF through diverse changes in the CFTR protein — all impact coronavirus infection.

Researchers from the University of Alabama will investigate whether infection by SARS-CoV-2 can increase bacterial infections in people with CF and whether antiviral therapies for COVID-19 are enough to ease the virus’ effects in these patients.

Groups from Canada and the U.S. will investigate whether cells from people with CF are more or less likely to become infected and transmit the virus, as compared with cells of people without CF. These teams also will study what effects CFTR modulators, which alter or amplify the CFTR protein, have on this process.

Finally, scientists in Italy will examine whether COVID-19 changes the inflammatory response in cells of people with CF and what role a patient’s own biological mechanisms play in resolving that inflammation.

The results of these studies will add to the CFF’s growing body of research into viral, bacterial, and fungal infections in CF, the Foundation said. Those investigations have been funded through the Foundation’s Infection Research Initiative.

In the meantime, the CFF recommends that people with CF and those close to them should continue to take precautions to protect their health. CF patients and their families and caregivers are urged to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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