(Science: chest medicine) a generalised disorder of infants, children and young adults, in which there is widespread dysfunction of the exocrine glands, characterised by signs of chronic pulmonary disease (due to excess mucus production in the respiratory tract), pancreatic deficiency, abnormally high levels of electrolytes in the sweat and occasionally by biliary cirrhosis. There is an ineffective immunologic defense against bacteria in the lungs.
Pathologically, the pancreas shows obstruction of the pancreatic ducts by amorphous eosinophilic concretions, with consequent deficiency of pancreatic enzymes, resulting in steatorrhoea and azotorrhoea and intestinal malabsorption. The degree of involvement of organs and glandular systems may vary greatly, with consequent variations in the clinical picture.
Inheritance: autosomal recessive.