Melissa Benoit

Why sputum samples are important

People with CF chronically harbour different "bugs" called bacteria in their airways and lungs. Many of these bacteria cause damage to the lungs and can trigger flares of CF lung disease. As people with CF get older and are exposed to different daily environments, the bacteria in the lungs may change. It is important to get sputum samples at each clinic visit so that we can monitor which bacteria you are growing and try to target our treatment. Our goal is to kill the bacteria in the lungs where possible. Some bacteria are hard to kill and may even be hard to treat with antibiotics but we try our best to control the amount of bacteria in the lungs to avoid damage. Some bacteria are worse than others. Sometimes, some of the bacteria found in the sputum are not known to cause disease. This means that the bacteria are living in the lungs without causing any known damage. In this case we may not treat that particular bacteria. For all these reasons, early detection is important so that we can treat the bacteria in your lungs appropriately. It is also important to prevent the spread of bacteria between different patients. The only way to do this is through your sputum samples. If you have difficulty coughing up sputum, our respiratory therapists can help to collect sputum. If you have more questions talk to your CF team.