Cystic fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disorder affecting children and young adults in Canada. Researchers have yet to find a cure, but a team from McGill recently made a discovery that's giving some patients hope.

Researchers at the McGill University Health Centre have been studying a bacteria called pseudomonas aeruginosa, which affects those living with the disorder.

“We discovered there are variants of the bacteria that evolve in the lungs of the patients and when they become these variants they cause a lot of inflammation,” said lead researcher Dr. Dao Nguyen.

In some cases, that inflammation leads to the need for lung transplants. Nguyen's team is the first to make the connection between the bacteria and inflammation.

The discovery could lead to new treatments and though Nguyen says a cure is still a ways away, much progress has been made.

“The life expectancy has changed dramatically over the last few decades. If you looked at 70s and 80s patients were living barely into adulthood,” she said.

The futures of patients like Sarah Dettmers could be affected by what's happening in Nguyen’s petri dish.

Only 50 per cent of those who have cystic fibrosis live into their 50s. Each day, Dettmers takes a cocktail of pills to help her organs function, digest food and fight off harmful bacteria.

“We’re talking about 15,000 pills a year, we're talking about two hours of treatments every single day just to survive,” she said.

Treating her condition eats up a lot of her time, but she also uses her time to speak out on behalf of the cystic fibrosis community. It’s a community that's following the McGill team’s development closely - with hope.

“We're that close to a victory and we need to hold on. I want to be there when we see that victory,” she said.