Newcastle University medical student makes major Cystic Fibrosis discovery

Jo Armstead's summer project has led to publication in a prestigious journal and recognition by the country’s top expert

21-year-old medical student Jo Armstead
21-year-old medical student Jo Armstead

A Newcastle medical student has made a major discovery which will help doctors diagnose and treat patients with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) better.

Jo Armstead, 21, started out on a medical summer project but it turned into hundreds of hours of careful work.

Now, the third year student at Newcastle University Medical School, has now had her work published in a prestigious journal and recognised by the country’s top expert.

Jo, who hails from Manchester, accessed data from 30 countries to discover that there are over 75,000 people with the genetic disorder.

Half are over 18 years old, and of those, 50% are infected by the fungus, Aspergillus.

An infection by the fungus is known as Aspergillosis, and it often affects asthma patients, those with CF, and patients with bronchiectasis.

The condition can cause an allergy known as ABPA, which starts in childhood and reaches a peak in late teenage years, and can cause shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

The research could help doctors diagnose and treat CF patients faster.

Jo was working on a summer project with Professor David Denning, Director of the NHS National Aspergillosis Centre and Professor of Infectious Diseases in Global Health at the University of Manchester, when she made the discovery.

Jo said: “It has been really great to be involved in the first project of its kind ever done, with dramatic results and real opportunities for better health in young CF sufferers.”

Professor Denning said: “The life expectancy of people with CF has been increasing, but aspergillosis has a major negative impact on many.

“By painstakingly crunching the numbers, Jo has helped us better understand the scale of the challenge which will lead to better diagnostics and treatment strategies.”

When she qualifies, Jo is considering a career in acute medicine with expedition medicine.

The UK has the second highest number of adult CF sufferers at 5,290, second only to the USA

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