There remains a critical need for more effective, safe, long-term treatments for cystic fibrosis (CF). Any successful therapeutic strategy designed to combat the respiratory pathology of this condition must address the altered lung physiology and recurrent, complex, polymicrobial infections and biofilms that affect the CF pulmonary tract. Cysteamine is a potential solution to these unmet medical needs and is described here for the first time as (Lynovex®) a single therapy with the potential to deliver mucoactive, antibiofilm and antibacterial properties; both in oral and inhaled delivery modes. Cysteamine is already established in clinical practice for an unrelated orphan condition, cystinosis, and is therefore being repurposed (in oral form) for cystic fibrosis from a platform of over twenty years of safety data and clinical experience.
The antibacterial and antibiofilm attributes of cysteamine were determined against type strain and clinical isolates of CF relevant pathogens using CLSI standard and adapted microbiological methods and a BioFlux microfluidic system. Assays were performed in standard nutrient media conditions, minimal media, to mimic the low metabolic activity of microbes/persister cells in the CF respiratory tract and in artificial sputum medium. In vivo antibacterial activity was determined in acute murine lung infection/cysteamine nebulisation models. The mucolytic potential of cysteamine was assessed against DNA and mucin in vitro by semi-quantitative macro-rheology. In all cases, the 'gold standard' therapeutic agents were employed as control/comparator compounds against which the efficacy of cysteamine was compared.
Cysteamine demonstrated at least comparable mucolytic activity to currently available mucoactive agents. Cysteamine was rapidly bactericidal against both metabolically active and persister cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and also emerging CF pathogens; its activity was not sensitive to high ionic concentrations characteristic of the CF lung. Cysteamine prevented the formation of, and disrupted established P. aeruginosa biofilms. Cysteamine was synergistic with conventional CF antibiotics; reversing antibiotic resistance/insensitivity in CF bacterial pathogens.
The novel mucolytic-antimicrobial activity of cysteamine (Lynovex®) provides potential for a much needed new therapeutic strategy in cystic fibrosis. The data we present here provides a platform for cysteamine's continued investigation as a novel treatment for this poorly served orphan disease.