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Sinusitis involves inflammation of the sinuses. About 30 million cases of sinusitis occur in the United States annually, yet its cause can be difficult to detect. For a long time, it was thought that the sinuses were sterile, but scientists now know that microbes do exist in the sinuses. A recent study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine  has found that, not only do microbes exist in the sinuses, but that a loss of microbial diversity occurs in those people with sinusitis when compared to healthy people.

Specifically, people with sinusitis had higher amounts of Cornebacterium tuburculostearicum, while healthy people were colonized with Lactobacillus sakei, a bacteria that helps prevent the development of sinusitis, based on previous studies. The lead researcher, Susan Lynch, suggests that the sinuses are home to a diverse microbiome, which includes beneficial bacteria that help protect against sinus infection.

Often, sinusitis is treated with antibiotics, yet the original cause of infection may not be bacterial at all. Sinusitis is one condition for which antibiotic overuse is cautioned against. Another author of the study, Andrew Goldberg, stated, “The premise for our understanding of chronic sinusitis and therapeutic treatment appears to be wrong, and a different therapeutic strategy seems appropriate.”

Although too early to draw conclusions about specific alternative treatments, this study alludes to the eventual use of probiotics in the treatment of sinusitis. More studies will be needed to determine what bacteria are helpful, and what treatment might work.

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