Genes and You: Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited condition which affects mainly the lungs and the pancreas. Thick, sticky mucus builds up in these organs causing infections and damage in the lungs and making digesting food difficult. The male reproductive system can also be affected.
How is Cystic Fibrosis passed on?
The pattern of inheritance for Cystic Fibrosis is autosomal recessive. A person who inherits one faulty gene for Cystic Fibrosis will be a carrier. Carriers are usually unaffected but can pass the faulty gene onto any children they may have. If one or both parents is a carrier, there is a 50% (1 in 2) chance that each child of theirs will also be a carrier.
A child who inherits two copies of the faulty gene (one from 5 each parent) will have Cystic Fibrosis. If both parents are carriers, there is a 25% (1 in 4) chance of this happening.
A PERSON WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS MAY BE AFFECTED IN SOME, OR ALL, OF THE FOLLOWING WAYS:
To stay well, people with CF need to spend time at least twice a day (more if they are unwell) doing physiotherapy and breathing exercises in order to help clear the mucus from their lungs. They also need to take special enzymes with each meal to help them digest their food. As many will also be taking prescribed vitamin supplements and antibiotics, they may end up needing to take about 20 pills with each meal.
- They may cough a lot. This cough is not infectious (you cannot 'catch' it).
- They may be small for their age and puberty may be delayed.
- Many will make regular visits to a CF clinic or local hospital to check how they are or for further treatment.
Cystic Fibrosis is the UK's most common life-threatening inherited disease. Every week another five babies are born with the condition.
CF is most common in people of European origin.
It is estimated that approximately 1 person in 25 in the UK is an unaffected carrier (i.e. about 2 million people or 4% of the population).
There is no cure for Cystic Fibrosis. But treatments are improving and people with CF are living longer into adult life. Gene therapy (where working copies of the gene are introduced into the lungs of people with CF) holds hopes for the future. Heart and lung transplants have also improved the quality of life of some people with CF
If you are interested in finding out more about Cystic Fibrosis, you can write (enclosing an A5 stamped addressed envelope) to: Cystic Fibrosis Trust, 11 London Road, Bromley, Kent BR1 1B4 www.cftrust.org.uk