17 Jun 2011

Double lung transplant breaks new medical ground

A 20-year-old woman from Dublin with cystic fibrosis makes medical history after coming through a complex double lung transplant.

Becky Jones underwent the transplant at a specialist unit in Manchester, despite having a fungal infection in her lungs which led to the formation of an unprecedented 10 “fungal balls”.

She had to be flown by air ambulance from her home in the Irish Republic to the unit at the Wythenshawe Hospital, in south Manchester, but doctors say she is recovering well after the surgery.

She said: “Words simply cannot begin to describe the pure relief I feel.

“The chains have been lifted. I can breathe! I can’t, for the life of me, remember feeling so well! I now plan to travel and study fashion at college. The world is officially my oyster!”

CT scan showing the fungal balls which had formed in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patient Becky Jones

Above is a cross section of Becky Jones’ lungs from a CT scan showing 4 of the 10 fungal balls


One of the aspects of Becky’s condition which made it more complex than usual was the fact that the fungal infection she developed became increasingly resistant to anti-fungal drugs. Doctors at the unit which has been treating Becky, the National Aspergillosis Centre, say they are seeing an increasing number of patients whose infections are not responding to medication.

The Wythenshawe Hospital, which also houses the National Aspergillosis Centre, is home to a number of experts, which was the only reason that Becky was accepted for transplant at the hospital.

Survival rate ‘encouraging’

The charity the Cystic Fibrosis Trust says that the survival rate for people with the condition who have had lung transplants is “encouraging”. 70 per cent survive two years and the longest surviving transplant patients had their operations over 15 years ago.

Following her surgery, Becky is now taking anti-fungal drugs to minimise the risk of life-threatening aspergillosis. This is common after lung transplants as patients’ immune systems are suppressed to prevent their bodies rejection the donor organs.

Professor David Denning, who is director of the National Aspergillosis Centre, said Becky will provide hope for others in a similar situation: “With increasing antifungal resistance since 2004, she is a courageous torchbearer for others.”