ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The romantic movie “Five Feet Apart,” opening in movie theaters next week, explores the challenges of two patients with cystic fibrosis who are falling in love in spite of having to keep their distance.
It’s a dramatic portrayal of the “six foot rule,” a guideline set by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that says cystic fibrosis patients must be kept a minimum of six feet (two meters) to minimize the risk of cross infection.
“Because of the inability to clear their mucus, a lot of CF patients will always have some bacteria in their lungs,” says Jia, a pulmonologist at the University of Michigan’s academic medical center. “Some of the bacteria have been shown to be worse than others, because they decrease lung function over time more quickly if you have it than if you don’t.”
People with CF are recommended to keep their distance because of the risk of picking up these bad bacteria.
Some of the earliest studies demonstrating the fact that people with CF can spread bacteria to each other were done at the University of Michigan by John LiPuma, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease expert.
Jia warns: “We never know exactly what bacteria patients are carrying and we look for it, but we recommend they not be close together to prevent this spread.”
As romance between cystic fibrosis patients appears on screen in Five Feet Apart hits theaters, @umich lung expert explains the precautions behind the movie title.