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Treatment Options

New Treatments Under Review

Hypertonic Saline Therapy / Azithromycin / Glutathione and Other Antioxidants / Curcumin

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Hypertonic Saline Therapy

Hypertonic saline therapy is a relatively new procedure that was the subject of a recent trial in Australia. The therapy is designed to help clear mucus from the lungs using a mist of hypertonic saline, which extra salty water this is sterilized, so it contains no germs.

The trial in Australia indicated that hypertonic saline therapy can be effective. One group; received hypertonic saline therapy with a 7% salt solution, and the other received normal saline therapy with a 0.9% salt solution. Both groups had better lung function during the study, but the group receiving hypertonic saline therapy showed more improvement and fewer lung infections than the other group.

Hypertonic saline therapy can irritate the airways, and some patients in the study experienced increased coughing, sore throat and chest tightness. If you choose hypertonic saline therapy, your CF care team may want you to take your first dose while at the care center.

It is not known yet whether hypertonic saline therapy is safe for everyone. The Australian tests were conducted with persons 6 years old and older who had mild-to-moderate lung disease. Your CF care team can advise you whether hypertonic saline therapy is safe for you or your child and how often you should use the procedure. You should use only pharmacy-produced hypertonic saline and not try to make your own.


Azithromycin is a commonly used antibiotic made by Phizer Inc. and sold as Zithromax®. Many people have taken it to treat pneumonia, sore throats and infections. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has recognized that Azithromycin might help people with CF, and has tested the drug clinically.

In a 2002 trial, patients with CF were monitored for lung function, weight and days spent in the hospital to treat lung infections. Over six months, CF patients who took Azithromycin saw a 6 percent improvement in lung function, an increase in their weight, and had 47 percent fewer days in the hospital for the treatment of a lung infection. Side effects noted were mild and included nausea, diarrhea and wheezing.

Your CF care team can tell you whether Azithromycin is a good choice for you or your child.

Glutathione and Other Antioxidants

Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in the human body. It also plays a role in protecting the lungs against damage from germs and pollutants. Scientific evidence suggests that people with CF may have low levels of glutathione in their lungs. As such, increasing glutathione levels through oral supplements or via inhalation could become a therapy for CF.

It is not yet known whether glutathione is beneficial for people with CF, nor is it known whether glutathione is safe when inhaled. Until the safety, dosage and possible benefits have been addressed in a large clinical trial, it is not recommended that people with CF use glutathione as a therapy.

Doctors have long recommended that antioxidant vitamins A and E for people with CF. Other antioxidants include beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and vitamin C.


Curcumin is the component of the spice turmeric that causes its bright yellow color and strong taste. Although curcumin is available as a nutritional supplement in health food stores, these supplements are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, the purity and quality of such supplements is not known, and they may contain ingredients of unknown origin.

At this time there is no evidence that curcumin is beneficial to people with CF. Benefits that are seen in mice in laboratory settings do not occur in humans. Until the safety, dosage and possible benefits have been addressed in a large clinical trial, it is not recommended that people with CF use curcumin.

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