A major breakthrough in the treatment of cystic fibrosis has been announced by an international research team, led by scientists at Queen's University Belfast.

The results of trials of a new drug show it produces a significant improvement in lung function, reduces disease flare-ups and improves quality of life.

A licence for the drug, called VX-770, will be sought in the autumn.

The research team says the drug will also benefit sufferers who have the 'Celtic gene', a genetic mutation which is particularly common in Ireland.

They say the drug is the first to treat the basic defect caused by the gene mutation in patients.

It opens the defective channel in the lung cells of people with CF and allows proper lung clearance of bacteria.

Researchers claim the drug has the potential to change the lives of people with CF around the world and it is expected to be available to patients next year.

While it is still too early to determine if the treatment will improve life expectancy, the team says the improvements in breathing tests and the reduction in flare-ups would suggest survival will be better.

Ireland has the highest proportion of people with cystic fibrosis in the world and over 1,100 people have the condition here.

Along with the QUB team, the studies were carried out by scientists at the University of Ulster, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and researchers in Europe, the US and Australia.

Cystic fibrosis campaigner Orla Tinsley has welcomed the breakthrough in CF treatment.

The 24-year-old from Kildare said it was 'wonderful news' and would offer CF sufferers around the world 'new hope'.