Skip to Content


Queen’s Research discovers vitamins could help treat Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers have discovered why antibiotics for treating people with cystic fibrosis are becoming less effective and how fat soluble vitamins might offer a viable solution.

A team of researchers led by Professor Miguel Valvano, from the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, has discovered why some particularly harmful bacteria are not responding to antibiotics.

The bacteria, Burkholderia cenocepacia, are highly antibiotic resistant and cause severe lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis.

This research study, recently published in the international journal mBio, unveiled that the administration of fat-soluble vitamins could increase the effectiveness of the antibiotics used to treat cystic fibrosis infections.

Lipocalins, the antibiotic-capturing proteins, latch on with more strength to fat-soluble vitamins than to the antibiotics. Therefore, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E could help to improve antibiotic treatment by freeing the antibiotics from the lipocalins and allowing them to reach the target bacteria to fight the infection.

Speaking about this breakthrough, Professor Valvano explains: “Antibiotic resistance is a global phenomenon which prevents the effective treatment of diseases. Our research shows that bacteria not only can resist the action of antibiotics once they are internalised but can also capture antibiotics before they reach and penetrate into the bacterial cells.

“This is an exciting and potentially life-changing finding, particularly relevant for cystic fibrosis patients who are chronically infected with multi-resistant bacteria. Armed with this knowledge, we can focus our efforts on finding alternative solutions to more effectively treat the infection in these patients.

“Fat-soluble vitamins can ‘soak up’ the lipocalins before they have a chance to bind the antibiotics, increasing the chances that antibiotics will reach the bacteria.

“We are now exploring ways to reformulate antibiotics together with relevant vitamins for delivery into cystic fibrosis patients and assess their efficacy, so that patients can benefit from these findings.”

Lung infections, mostly caused by bacteria, are a serious and chronic problem for people living with cystic fibrosis and are often treated with inhaled antibiotics. Over time, bacteria in the lungs can become resistant to antibiotics making it increasingly difficult to treat lung infections and leading to irreversible damage to the lungs.


Media inquiries to Suzanne Lagan, Communications Office at Queen's University Belfast on Tel: 028 9097 5292 or email