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2015 | 1 | 9-13
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A Millennial view of Cystic Fibrosis

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Although only identified as a distinct disease in the 1930s, it was soon apparent that Cystic Fibrosis (CF) had been present, but unrecognised, in European populations for many years – perhaps even centuries [1] . Within a decade of the early descriptions, the autosomal recessive nature of this genetic disease had been clarified, and its clinical features had been expanded. Secondary nutritional deficiencies complicated the underlying condition: the first clear description of CF as “a new disease”, which included a speculation about its genetic basis (because there were 2 pairs of sibs in the case series) was published as Vitamin A deficiency in children [2]. The diagnosis was most often made at autopsy. When it was suspected in life, the diagnostic tests used included duodenal intubation to obtain fluid which would show impaired tryptic digestion of the coating of X-Ray film in CF children, and measurement of vitamin A in the blood. Some nutritional improvement could be expected with simple, rather inefficient pancreatic enzyme preparations, but it was not until mid-century that antibiotics began to treat pulmonary infections effectively. As a young doctor in the 1950s I soon became aware that the median age at death for affected children was about one year, and most died before reaching school age.
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References
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