Genetics and Cystic Fibrosis

Do you know if you are a carrier for the cystic fibrosis gene? If you are parents and want to start a family or are planning on having another child and are concerned because there is cystic fibrosis in your family history, consider genetic testing. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease a child could get if both parents carry the recessive gene that contains cystic fibrosis.

You could be a carrier without showing signs of the disease and pass it on to your child. If your spouse is not a carrier, there is still a 25 percent chance your child will also be a carrier. You have a higher risk of being a carrier of cystic fibrosis if you are a Caucasian and descendent from a family in Northern Europe. Although other ethnic groups can be affected by cystic fibrosis, they have much less risk than a Caucasian.

Risk Profile

The difference in ethnic groups who are carriers of this mutant gene are shown by these statistics:

    • Caucasians have a 1 in 29 chance of carrying the cystic fibrosis gene
    • People of Latino background have a 1 in 46 chance of carrying the gene
    • African-Americans have a 1 in 65 chance for having the mutant gene
    • Asian-Americans have the least risk of being a carrier; the rate for this ethnic group is 1 in 90.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation estimated about 30,000 adults and children in the United States have cystic fibrosis. This disease severely affects several organs in the body but especially the respiratory and digestive systems. The abnormal gene makes normally thin, watery mucus turn into thick, heavy, and sticky mucus that adheres to the walls of the important passageways to these organs.


The mucus collects in the lungs and passageways and prevents bacteria from being coughed up and expelled from the body. This promotes serious infections that become acute and can cause significant damage to the lungs. These severe infections can potentially be life threatening.

If your doctor determines you and your partner are both carriers of the mutant gene, the unborn child can be tested in utero. The infant cannot be treated for the disease until after the birth but it does give parents a chance to educate themselves about the disease and explore different was of treating CF. Although you can discover if your baby has this inherited disease, it will not tell you the severity of the symptoms or which organ of the body will be the most seriously affected.

There is renewed hope for those who suffer from cystic fibrosis. New methods of treatment, new medications, and new physiotherapy methods are giving the cystic fibrosis patient have a longer life. It can also help improve the quality of life. A person can do much toward staying healthy by eating a healthy diet, staying away from secondhand smoke, and exercising regularly. Self-care is important for a person with cystic fibrosis. A small child or infant may need help to treat their disease.