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Patient Stories: Brianna Strand

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A woman from Washington with cystic fibrosis suffers years of worsening symptoms stemming from a skin infection.

Born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), Brianna Strand was used to being treated for the routine lung infections associated with the disease. Beginning her junior year at Washington State University, however, something changed. She had been getting ongoing CF treatment at the university facility, but after several extended courses of antibiotics, her lungs still did not feel normal. Because she had experienced a year-long decline in lung function, her doctor suggested she visit a specialist at the University of Washington. 

The summer after her graduation in 2012, Brianna began receiving treatment at the UW health center, where infectious diseases physician Dr. Paul Pottinger took a culture from her lungs and found Mycobacterium abscessus. M. abscessus is a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) that usually causes minor skin infections, but in patients with chronic lung diseases, it can cause significant problems. Due to the infection and CF, Brianna began a combination of 2-3 antibiotics a day that though cumbersome, was manageable. 

In 2014, Brianna went back to UW after an infection flare-up. She had a high fever and could not keep food down for more than a month. Doctors constantly switched and adjusted her medications and dosages to try to get the infection under control without making her ill. Eventually, her doctor hit upon a combination that seemed to work. It took several months to get it under control, and her new drug regimen involves taking 2 intravenous antibiotics around the clock, as well as 2 orally each day.

Brianna must now have her lungs tested for infection every three months, and a nurse visits weekly to ensure the infection is not flaring up. Her health problems disqualify her from having a lung transplant because the risk of infection spreading to the new lung is too high. Equally devastating is that she and her husband cannot have children while she remains on the high doses of the antibiotics she is taking. She hopes a new antibiotic will be approved that will clear her infection, and allow her to have children and undergo a lung transplant. 

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