PerspectiveMedicine

Mycobacterium abscessus in cystic fibrosis

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Science  30 Apr 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6541, pp. 465-466
DOI: 10.1126/science.abi5695

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Summary

Mycobacterium abscessus is a nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) that evades the host immune system by infecting macrophages, key immune cells involved in clearing inhaled bacteria (1). In cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, M. abscessus is increasing in prevalence (2), is associated with rapidly worsening disease (3), is difficult to treat (4), and requires antibiotic regimens with substantial side effects, including severe nausea, deafness, and impaired liver function. Lung transplantation is often contraindicated in the presence of NTM and mortality is high (5). Understanding how these bacteria infect and adapt in susceptible hosts is important to develop preventive and treatment approaches. On page 483 of this issue, Bryant et al. (6) show that M. abscessus, through horizontal gene transfer, shares with other Mycobacteria a DNA methyltransferase that regulates gene expression, including those involved in antimicrobial resistance, pathogenicity, and immune evasion.

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