If you constantly battle sinus infections, low levels of good bacteria in your nose may be to blame, new research suggests.
Previous research has shown that health-protecting strains of bacteria reside in your digestive system, genital tract and on your skin.
In this study, researchers found that people with chronic nasal and sinus inflammation had lower numbers of beneficial lactobacilli bacteria in their upper respiratory tract than people without such inflammation.
The researchers also pinpointed a specific strain of lactobacilli that’s especially helpful and has evolved to thrive in the oxygen-rich environment of the nose, according to the study published May 26 in the journal Cell Reports.
“Sinusitis patients don’t have a lot of treatment options,” and available treatments often lead to problems such as antibiotic resistance and cause side effects, said study author Sarah Lebeer, of the University of Antwerp in the Netherlands.
The authors assessed the levels of 30 different families of bacteria in the upper respiratory tract of 225 chronic rhinosinusitis patients and 100 healthy people.
The healthy people had higher numbers of lactobacilli than the patients, with up to 10 times more in some parts of the nose.
Further investigation showed that a specific strain of lactobacilli had anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, and were also well-adapted to the oxygen-rich environment of the nose.
The researchers also developed a nasal spray that delivers lactobacilli to the nose and resulted in the bacteria colonizing the upper respiratory tract of 20 healthy volunteers.
Lebeer said she became interested in populations of bacteria in the nose when her mother had surgery for lifelong headaches and chronic rhinosinusitis.
“My mother had tried many different treatments, but none worked. I was thinking it’s a pity that I could not advise her some good bacteria or probiotics for the nose,” she said in a journal news release.
“No one had ever really studied it,” said Lebeer, who’s previously studied gut and vaginal probiotics.
“We think that certain patients would benefit from remodeling their microbiome and introducing beneficial bacteria in their nose to reduce certain symptoms. But we still have a long way to go with clinical and further mechanistic studies,” she said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on sinusitis.