Work experience student makes cystic fibrosis breakthrough

Jo Armstead, 21, revealed a link between the condition and aspergillus

A medical student on work experience has made a breakthrough in cystic fibrosis research that will improve treatment and could extend sufferers’ life expectancy.

Jo Armstead, 21, spent hundreds of hours at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester over the summer using data from 30 countries to examine the link between the debilitating lung condition and the aspergillus fungus.

She found that of more than 75,000 people with the genetic disorder studied, half had been infected with aspergillus.

What started out as a summer project has led to the research being published in a leading journal, the Public Library of Science, and recognition from experts.

Professor David Denning, who worked with Jo as the director of the NHS National Aspergillosis Centre, said although the life expectancy of people with cystic fiboris has been increasing, aspergillosis has a terrible impact on many.

He added: “By painstakingly crunching the numbers, Jo has helped us better understand the scale of the challenge which will lead to better diagnostics and treatment strategies.

“There will be many patients who over the coming years will be grateful to Jo and her work.”

Jo Armstead, 21, revealed a link between the condition and aspergillus

Jo, from Altrincham, is in her third year at Newcastle University Medical School and is considering a career in acute medicine.

She said: “It has been really great to be involved in the first project of its kind ever done, with dramatic results and real opportunities for better health in young CF sufferers.”

Although cystic fibrosis sufferers are known to be at risk of aspergillosis, her research is the first to show the extent of the link.

The UK has the second highest number of adults with the condition – more than 5,200 - second only to the US.

Aspergillosis causes bronchitis and an allergy known as ABPA, which starts in childhood and reaches a peak in the teenage years.