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Cystic Fibrosis Advance Shows Promise

Inexpensive Treatment Cuts Infections, Boosts Lung Function

Not an Easy Treatment continued...

"The first time you inhale it you feel like you are drowning," Boucher says. "Patients really do mobilize secretions, so they get a funny feeling in the chest. It is different. It is different tasting, a different sensation, but the lung will feel different, too."

The stuff tastes terrible, Ratjen says. And treatment takes a long time -- 15 minutes, twice a day at least. Still, only about one in 20 patients finds it intolerable. Most patients get used to it, and some can tolerate even more-concentrated salt solutions.

In fact, Boucher says, "patients love it." Once they've been on the treatment for a while, he says, they don't want to enroll in clinical trials that don't guarantee hypertonic saline treatment.

And hypertonic saline may not be the best way to restore the lung's protective layer of water. Researchers are experimenting with a powdered sugar compound that tastes better -- and would reach deeper into the lungs. And there's hope that in the future, science may find a drug that restores surface water to cystic fibrosis lung cells.

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