Research digest by Kiran: The Use of Amphotericin in Cystic Fibrosis
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Title: Small-molecule ion channels increase host defences in cystic fibrosis airway epithelia
Type: Letter to editor 
Journal: Nature 

Amphotericin is a medicine used to treat serious fungal infections like aspergillosis. But new research suggests that it could be used in helping patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). Now, cystic fibrosis is a nasty genetic disease that happens from a single mutation in the CFTR gene. It gives you all sorts of problems like coughs, infections and even affects your pancreas. But the main issue is cells in the lungs cannot move chloride ions into the mucus that lines our airways. That means there’s a lot of thick mucus and provides the perfect place for bacteria to grow and cause infections.


So, where does amphotericin come into this? Well, the way it kills fungi is by inserting small pores into their cells which cause various ions in the cytoplasm to leak out.


If you use the small pores made by Amphotericin in CF, would the cells that cannot move chloride be changed in any way? The researchers at the University of Illinois showed that yes, you would see a change. The addition of the drug causes the movement of chloride ions out of the cell and subsequently makes the mucus much less thick – helping kill dangerous bacteria. This shows that Amphotericin could ‘correct’ the problems cause by mutations in cystic fibrosis.



Of course, this work was conducted in laboratory and it remains to be seen whether or not it will hold up with people suffering from cystic fibrosis. But the early results do look promising.




Muraglia, K. A. et al. Small-molecule ion channels increase host defences in cystic fibrosis airway epithelia. Nature 567, 405–408 (2019).

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Originally published 06 March 2020 , updated 14/03/2020

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