A new study by University at Buffalo researchers offers insight into the formidable bacterial adversary Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae), which afflicts individuals with COPD.

The bacterium is known as Haemophilus influenzae (H. influenzae) – spelled somewhat like the virus that causes the flu but a different pathogen. It colonizes in the airways of COPD patients, making their condition worse and accelerating their decline.

Now, a study that also included scientists from Yale University and the University of Maryland provides important clues to how the bacterium lives and adapts inside the airways despite the body’s efforts to eradicate it. It’s hoped the findings, which relied on collecting bacterial specimens from patients over 15 years, will help lead to an effective treatment or vaccine.

Studies of this pathogen up until now have been looking at strains grown in labs or stored in freezers. The power of this study is that it collected 269 strains of H. influenza over time, and the researchers could see how the pathogen changed its genetic makeup – in some cases to become more lethal and survive in human airways.