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A number of people contacting me have indicated that living in a house or apartment with a mold problem led to their chronic sinusitis. And it wasn't the dreaded toxic black mold (varieties of mold which can cause serious neurological symptoms), but common molds that triggered their inflammatory reactions, respiratory symptoms, allergies, and eventually chronic sinusitis. All due to excessive mold exposure.

This summer's flooding caused by hurricanes and tropical storms will result in major mold growth in residences after the water recedes. What will be the health consequences? Article excerpts about mold (and with impressive photos) from The Atlantic:

The Looming Consequences of Breathing Mold

But the impact of hurricanes on health is not captured in the mortality and morbidity numbers in the days after the rain. This is typified by the inglorious problem of mold. Submerging a city means introducing a new ecosystem of fungal growth that will change the health of the population in ways we are only beginning to understand. The same infrastructure and geography that have kept this water from dissipating created a uniquely prolonged period for fungal overgrowth to take hold, which can mean health effects that will bear out over years and lifetimes.

The documented dangers of excessive mold exposure are many. Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization note that living or working amid mold is associated with respiratory symptoms, allergies, asthma, and immunological reactions. The document cites a wide array of “inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms isolated from damp buildings, including their spores, metabolites, and components,” as well as evidence that mold exposure can increase risks of rare conditions like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, and chronic sinusitis.

Twelve years ago in New Orleans, Katrina similarly rendered most homes unlivable, and it created a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, and caused a shortage of potable water and food. But long after these threats to human health were addressed, the mold exposure, in low-income neighborhoods in particular, continued. The same is true in parts of Brooklyn, where mold overgrowth has reportedly worsened in the years since Hurricane Sandy. In the Red Hook neighborhood, a community report last October found that a still-growing number of residents were living in moldy apartments.

The highly publicized “toxic mold”—meaning the varieties that send mycotoxins into the air, the inhaling of which can acutely sicken anyone—causes most concern right after a flood. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina last year, sludge stood feet deep in homes for days. As it receded, toxic black mold grew. In one small community, Nichols, it was more the mold than the water itself that left the town’s 261 homes uninhabitable for months.

The more insidious and ubiquitous molds, though, produce no acutely dangerous mycotoxins but can still trigger inflammatory reactions, allergies, and asthma. The degree of impact from these exposure in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is still being studied.

Molds also emit volatile chemicals that some experts believe could affect the human nervous system. Among them is Joan Bennett, a distinguished professor of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers University, who has devoted her career to the study of fungal toxins. She was living in New Orleans during the storm, and she recalls that while some health experts were worried about heavy-metal poisoning or cholera, she was worried about fungus.

The smell of the fungi in her house got so strong after the flooding that it gave her headaches and made her nauseated. As she evacuated, wearing a mask and gloves, she took samples of the mold along with her valued possessions. Her lab at Rutgers went on to report that the volatile organic compounds emitted by the mold, known as mushroom alcohol, had some bizarre effects on fruit flies. For one, they affected genes involved in handling and transporting dopamine in a way that mimicked the pathology of Parkinson’s disease in humans. “More biologists ought to be looking at gas-phase compounds, because I’m quite certain we’ll find a lot of unexpected effects that we’ve been ignoring,” said Bennett.

 Mold in ceiling.  Credit: CDC

 An amazing new study is about to start in Sweden - this study will see if "snot transplants" work for the treatment for chronic sinusitis! Will this turn out to be a permanent treatment? While studies show that probiotic supplements tend not to stick around in the gut (they're gone after about a week), people receiving a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) find that these microbial communities do stick around (colonize).  So there is something about getting an entire microbial community (bacteria, fungi, viruses) that is more effective than just a few species that are in typical probiotic supplements.

We have found the same problem in sinusitis treatment - the Lactobacillus sakei treatment works to treat sinusitis, but then doesn't stick around - as evidenced by having to treat again after a cold or sore throat.  And so we treat again - and again it's successful. And this happens again and again. Sooo.... it's important to find out if a transplant of the entire microbial community of snot (the sinonasal microbiome) works. And if works, will the treatment be a permanent one? I also wonder.... Several people have mentioned this idea to me, but has anyone with sinusitis tried a "snot transplant" at home? (And yes, this is self-experimentation.)

The description and purpose of the study refer to what this site has discussed for several years: the sinus microbiome is out of whack (dysbiosis) in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), whether due to antibiotics or something else (viruses, etc). The study will enroll 30 people, start May 15, 2017, and end December 31, 2018. The purpose of the study is to have patients with chronic rhinosinusits without nasal polyps (CRSsNP) receive microbiome transplants from healthy donors without any sinus problems. They would receive a snot transplant for 5 days in a row. Unfortunately we'll have to wait at least 1 1/2 years for any results. Excerpts from clinical

Sinonasal Microbiome Transplant as a Therapy for Chronic Rhinosinusitis Without Nasal Polyps (CRSsNP)

Purpose: Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a disease associated with impaired quality of life and substantial societal costs. Though sometimes co-appearing with other conditions, such as asthma, allergy, and nasal polyps, many cases present without co-morbidities. Micro-biological diagnostic procedures are frequently undertaken, but the results are often inconclusive. Nevertheless, antibiotics are usually prescribed, but invariably with limited and temporary success. Accordingly, there is a need for new treatments for CRS.

Recent studies indicate that the sinuses are colonized by a commensal microbiome of bacteria and that damage to this natural microbiome, by pathogens or antibiotics, may cause an imbalance that may promote CRS. Therefore, treatments that restore the commensal microbiome may offer an alternative to current protocols. Arguably, as suggested by studies on patients with intestinal infections (next paragraph), one such possibility may be to transfer a "normal microbiome" to patients with CRS.

A disrupted microbiome is linked to intestinal clostridium difficile infections. Probiotic restitution therapy may be effective even in cases recalcitrant to antibiotic treatment. However, a key to effective probiotic restitution is selecting the bacteria that facilitate regrowth of normal microbiome. As an answer to this, researchers have chosen to simply transplant the entire microbiome from a healthy donor. In the case of clostridium difficile infection in the form of faecal transplants.

In this study, we will examine the possibility to treat patients with chronic rhinosinusitis without polyps (CRSsNP) with complete sinonasal microbiomes obtained from healthy donors. Our analysis will focus on symptoms and signs of disease as well as on nasal inflammatory and microbiological indices.

Detailed DescriptionOver the last few years the theory of a damaged microbiome as a cause or promoting factor behind chronic rhinosinusitis has gained increasing interest from the scientific community. A number of studies aimed at investigating the microbiota of the nose and paranasal sinuses in health and disease has been published with very varying outcomes. Furthermore, other studies have been aimed at probiotic treatment of sinonasal disease either locally or through immunologic manipulation via the gastrointestinal microbiota.

A problem common to all these studies is that studies examining the normal nasal microbiota have identified a great amount of different bacterial species. It is as of today not known which individual species or combinations of species that promotes health

In this study the investigators aim at recruiting patients suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis without polyps (CRSsNP) and healthy participants without any history sinonasal disease. The patients and the healthy participants will be examined for infectious diseases in a manner similar to other medical transplant procedures to minimize the risk for the recipients. The patients will then be treated with antibiotics to reduce the bacterial load of the nose and the paranasal sinuses. After the patient has finished the antibiotic treatment a microbiome transplant will be harvested from the healthy participant as a nasal lavage. The raw lavage fluid will then be used to transplant the microbiome to the patient. The procedure will be repeated for five consecutive days.

The outcome measures analysed will focus on subjective sinonasal health and symptoms of the patients but also include nasal inflammatory and microbiological indices.

 Once again a study looked at biofilms in sinuses - but this time in the sinuses of healthy people and not those with sinusitis. Various different species of bacteria and small size "microcolonies" or biofilms were found in the healthy maxillary sinuses of all 30 people - so yes, it appears that the presence of biofilms in the sinuses is normal in healthy people. And yes, the presence of bacteria (even some low levels of species which are typically associated with sinusitis) are normally found in the sinuses of healthy people.  (Earlier research also found this last finding.)

The researchers state that it is normal for people to have "small size bacterial microcolonies" (of different kinds of bacteria) in the sinuses. The researchers theorized that the biofilms are probably "in equilibrium" under the influence of  "inhibiting defensive factors of the body", but they can become a source of infection if there are favorable conditions (such as illness). In other words, the researchers said that these biofilms are more like "bacteria films" in that they contain bacteria, but they live in small colonies that don't cause an inflammatory response with sinusitis symptoms.

One negative of this study was that advanced genetic sequencing was not done on the samples. Instead all samples taken from the people were cultured, which we now know misses a lot of bacterial and other microbial species (fungi, viruses). They looked at the microcolonies (biofilms) with scanning microscopes. Thus, while they found an assortment of bacteria on the sinuses of each person - they only found a total of 41 bacterial species among 30 persons. This is in contrast to studies using modern genetic sequencing that found hundreds of microbial species in healthy sinus microbiomes (microbial communities).

The other issue is that it is not clear to me if there were biofilms or  microcolonies that contained "beneficial" species in any of the samples. Other research suggests that biofilms of beneficial bacteria are also found in humans, and that this is one way beneficial bacteria that normally can't survive with exposure to oxygen can survive oxygen (the slime coating on the colony protects the bacteria within).

Other studies also stress that in healthy people there is "homeostasis" or "equilibrium" among all the microbes living in the sinuses, - a microbial community (which includes biofilms), and which helps maintain sinus health. See post with discussion of Mackenzie et al 2017 study: "A stable network of microbial interactions, established through processes such as niche competition, nutrient cycling, immune evasion, and biofilm formation help maintain homeostasis during health." But, as has been usual in recent sinus research, the current study also stated that much is unknown, that there are theories which are not yet proven one way or another, and more research needs to be done. Of course.... From  PLoS ONE:

The presence of bacterial microcolonies on the maxillary sinus ciliary epithelium in healthy young individuals

The aim of this cross-sectional in vitro study was to evaluate the mucosal surfaces of healthy maxillary sinuses, explore different forms of bacterial microorganism colonies present on the mucous membrane, and determine a mucosal surface area they occupy. Samples of the maxillary sinus mucosa were collected from 30 healthy patients (M = 11; F = 19). The material was obtained during the Le Fort I osteotomy performed during corrective jaw surgery. The morphological and morphometric analysis of sinus mucosa and bacterial film that was grown on it was performed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) as well as imaging software.

Scanning electron microscopy analysis showed the presence of different bacterium and bacteria-like structures in all the analyzed samples. In most cases, the bacterial film was mostly composed of diplococci-like and streptococci-like structures on the mucosa of the paranasal sinus. In any case, the mucous layer did not cover the whole lining of the evaluated sample. Each colony consists of more than 20 single bacterial cells, which has grown in aggregates.

Under the conditions of normal homeostasis of the body, the maxillary sinuses present diverse bacterial colonization. The bacteria are dispersed or concentrated in single microcolonies of the biofilm on the border of the mucous covering the ciliary epithelium. There is no uniform layer of the biofilm covering the mucosa of the maxillary sinuses. Because the biofilm is detected on healthy individuals sinus mucosa, the clinical question if it may become pathogenic is unclear and require an explanation.

It should also be noted that pathogenic organisms, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, or Staphylococcus aureus can be found in patients without active symptoms of the disease. Usually, colonization is defined as the presence of bacteria on the mucous membrane, and the lack of the inflammatory response distinguishes it from an infection.

However, the bacteria film in contrast to typical biofilm might be defined by the presence of bacteria, that growth in colonies without inducing the inflammatory response. Thus, the aim of the study was to evaluate the mucosal surfaces of the healthy maxillary sinuses (without any history of recent acute sinus inflammations or chronic inflammation in the past), to identify different forms of bacterial microorganisms which could, under certain conditions, become opportunistic or pathogenic and determine a mucosal surface of the area they occupy.

Scanning electron microscope investigations revealed the presence of bacterial film on the surface of maxillary sinus mucosa in 30 patients. Moreover, microbiological examinations of specimens taken from study participants revealed the presence of various types of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in 28 cases (93.34%) out of 30 studied samples. All samples had mixed flora. In total, 41 different microorganisms were isolated. The most frequently found microorganism was Streptococcus spp. in over 90% of all samples, while Propionibacterium acnes were present in 29,2% of samples, and Staphylococcus spp. was present in 17% of the samples.

Scanning electron microscopy analysis showed that the mucous layer has a thickness of 200 nm (± 40), which is covered up to 5% of the surface of each sample. The analysis showed the presence of bacteria-like microcolony structures in all analyzed samples.....Each colony consisted of more than 20 single bacterial cells, that had grown in aggregates. These clearly indicate the existence of a bacterial-like microcolony on maxillary sinus mucosa.

thumbnailScanning electron microscopy images of biofilms seen on the mucosal surface of the healthy paranasal sinus mucosa. See spherical structures related to Haemophilus influenzae (Fig B and D). Credit: Morawska-Kochman et al 


20131201_101300 Last week a person told an amazing story in the comments section after a post on this site. After suffering from a "constant runny nose and a bad smell" in the nose for 2 years - which was diagnosed as "fungi and staph" in the sinuses - the person started doing "kimchi treatments" (as discussed in the Sinusitis Treatment Summary page). After 2 weeks a fungal ball was loosened, which came out of the sinuses and into the mouth, and was then spit out. About an inch in size - a smelly, grey/green, round fungal ball. Wow. Which leads to the question: Are any of the microbes in live kimchi anti-fungal?

Kimchi is an amazing live fermented food, typically made with cabbage and other vegetables and a variety of seasonings. Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and so there is tremendous interest in Korea in studying kimchi to learn about the many different microbial species in kimchi, including how they change over the course of fermentation. It turns out that kimchi contains many species of bacteria, including various species of Lactobacillus - which are considered beneficial. Of course one of the species found in kimchi over the course of fermentation is Lactobacillus sakei - the bacteria that successfully treats sinusitis, and which I have written about extensively. L. sakei predominates over pathogenic bacteria (antibacterial) - which is why it is also used as a sausage starter culture (to kill off bacteria such as Listeria). One study found that the garlic, ginger, and leek used in making kimchi were the sources of L. sakei bacteria found in fermented kimchi.

Studies show that a number of the Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are antifungal against a number of different kinds of fungi.  Some of these antifungal bacteria are: Lactobacillus plantarum, L. cruvatus, L. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, L. acidophilus, and L. sakei (here, here.

A study from 2005 found that some Lactobacillus species found in kimchi are predominant over a fungi known to cause health problems in humans - Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold (fungi) which is the most common cause of Aspergillus infections. Aspergillus (of which there are many species) is very common both indoors and outdoors (on plants, soil, rotting plants, household dust, etc.), so people typically breathe in these fungal spores daily and without any negative effects. However, sometimes Aspergillus can cause allergic reactions, infections in the lungs and sinuses (including fungal balls), and other infections. (more information at CDC site). The study found that 5 bacterial species in kimchi were also antifungal against other species of fungi (Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium moniliforme, Penicillium commune, and Rhizopus oryzae). The 5 bacterial species in kimchi that they found to be antifungal were: Lactobacillus cruvatus, L. lactis subsp. lactis, L. casei, L. pentosus, and L. sakei.

Just keep in mind that fungi are everywhere around us, and even part of the microbes that live in and on us - this is our mycobiome (here and here). We also breathe in a variety of fungi (mold spores) every day. In healthy individuals (even babies) all the microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) live in balanced microbial communities, but the communities can become "out of whack" (dysbiosis) for various reasons, and microbes that formerly co-existed peacefully can multiply and become problematic.  If the populations get too unbalanced (e.g., antibiotics can kill off bacteria, and then an increase in fungi populations take their place) then ordinarily non-harmful fungi can become pathogenic. Or other pathogenic microbes can enter the community (e.g., through infection), and the person becomes ill.

IN SUMMARY: Kimchi has beneficial bacteria in it that are effective not just against bacteria (antibacterial), but also against some kinds of fungi (antifungal). One 2016 review study went so far as to say: "Kimchi possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, antiobesity, probiotic properties, cholesterol reduction, and antiaging properties." Experiences of my family and people writing suggest that the L. sakei in kimchi (and other products) is also antibiofilm. Hopefully, there will be some research on this in the future. But in the meantime, please keep writing to me about fungal complications of sinusitis, and especially if kimchi, L. sakei products, or other probiotics helped.

  It's now 4 years being free of chronic sinusitis and off all antibiotics! Four amazing years since I (and then the rest of my family) started using easy do-it-yourself sinusitis treatments containing the probiotic (beneficial bacteria) Lactobacillus sakei. My sinuses feel great! And yes, it still feels miraculous.

After reading the original ground-breaking research on sinusitis done by Abreu et al (2012), it led to finding and trying L. sakei as a sinusitis treatment. Of course, there is an entire community of microbes (bacteria, fungi, viruses) that live in healthy sinuses - the sinus microbiome - but L. sakei seems to be a key one for sinus health.

I just updated the post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis (originally posted January 2015) using my family's experiences (lots of self-experimentation!) and all the information that people have sent me. The post has a list of brands and products with L. sakei, treatment results, as well as information about some other promising probiotics (beneficial bacteria). Thank you so much!

Thank you all who have written to me  - whether publicly or privately. Please keep writing and tell me what has worked or hasn't worked for you as a sinusitis treatment. If you find another bacteria or microbe or product that works for you - please let me know. It all adds to the sinusitis treatment knowledge base. I will keep posting updates. 

(NOTE: I wrote our background story - Sinusitis Treatment Story back in December 2013, and there is also a  Sinusitis Treatment Summary page with the various treatment methods quickly discussed. One can also click on SINUSITIS under CATEGORIES to see more posts about what is going on in the world of sinusitis research.)


 People assume that taking probiotics results in the beneficial probiotic bacteria colonizing and living in the gut (or sinuses when using L. sakei). It is common to hear the phrase "take probiotics to repopulate the gut" or "improve the gut microbes". The human gut microbiota (human gut microbiome) refers to all the microbes that reside inside the gut (hundreds of species). Probiotics are live bacteria, that when taken or administered, result in a health benefit. But what does the evidence say?

First, it is important to realize that currently supplements and foods contain only a small variety of probiotic species, with some Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species among the most common. But they are not the most common bacteria found in the gut. And very important bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (a reduction of which is associated with a number of diseases) are not available at all in supplements. One problem is the F. prausnitzii are "oxygen sensitive" and they die within minutes upon exposure to air, a big problem when trying to produce supplements.

The evidence from the last 4 years  of L. sakei use for sinusitis treatment is that for some reason, the L. sakei is not sticking around and colonizing in the sinuses. My family's experiences and the experience of other people contacting me is that every time a person becomes sick with a cold or sore throat, it once again results in sinusitis, and then another treatment with a L. sakei product is needed to treat the sinusitis. And of course this has been a surprise and a big disappointment.

The same appears to be true for probiotics (whether added to a food or in a supplement) that are taken for other reasons, including intestinal health. Study after study, and a review article, finds that the beneficial bacteria do not colonize in the gut even if there are health benefits from the probiotics. That is, there may be definite health benefits from the bacteria, but within days of stopping the probiotic (whether in a food or a supplement) it is no longer found in the gut. Researchers know this because they can see what bacteria are in the gut by analyzing (using modern genetic sequencing tests) what is in the fecal matter (the stool).

However, the one exception to all of the above is a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) - which is transfer of fecal matter from one person to another. There the transplanted microbes of the donor do colonize the recipient's gut, referred to as "engraftment of microbes". Some researchers found that viruses in the fecal matter helped with the engraftment. So it looks like more than just some bacterial strains are involved. Another thing to remember is that study after study finds that dietary changes result in microbial changes in the gut, and these changes can occur very quickly.

From Gut Microbiota News Watch: Learning what happens between a probiotic input and a health output

What scientists know is that probiotics in healthy individuals are associated with a number of benefits. Meta-analyses of randomized, controlled trials show that probiotics help prevent upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, allergy, and cardiovascular disease risk in adults. But between the input and the output, what happens? A common assumption is that probiotics work by influencing the gut microbe community, leading to an increase in the diversity of bacterial species in the gut ecosystem and measurable excretion in the stool.

But this theory doesn’t seem to be true, according to a recently published systematic review by Kristensen and colleagues in Genome Medicine. Authors of the review analyzed seven studies and found no evidence that probiotics have the ability to change fecal microbiota composition. So even though individuals in the different studies were ingesting live bacterial species, the bacteria didn’t stick around to increase the diversity of the gut fecal microbiota.

Do probiotics alter the fecal composition of healthy adults? The answer seems to be no,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, Executive Science Officer for the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP)....Dr. Dan Merenstein, Research Division Director and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC (USA), agrees. “Initially when probiotics were studied, some people expected to see permanent colonization. We now realize that is unlikely to occur,” he says. “This study shows that the probiotics tested to date do not result in overarching bacterial community structure changes in healthy subjects. But clinical effects are clearly demonstrated for probiotics, and likely some are mediated by microbiome changes.

At issue, then, is not what probiotics do for healthy individuals, but exactly how they work: the so-called ‘mechanism’. Sanders, who described some alternative mechanisms in her BMC Medicine commentary about the Kristensen review, points out a logical error in news stories worldwide that covered the article: the assumption that if probiotics fail to change the microbiota composition, they fail to have any health effects. Sanders emphasizes that probiotics might work in many possible ways. “Probiotics may act through changing the function of the resident microbes, not their composition. They may interact with host immune cells,” she says. “They may inhibit opportunistic pathogens that are not dominant members of the microbiota. They may promote microbiota stability… .” 

 What exactly are the differences between people with chronic sinusitis and those who are healthy and don't get sinusitis? I've written many times about the Abreu et al 2012 study that found that not only do chronic sinusitis sufferers lack L. sakei, they have too much of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum (normally a harmless skin bacteria), and they also don't have the bacteria diversity in their sinuses that healthy people without sinusitis have. In other words, the sinus microbiome (microbial community) is out of whack (dysbiosis). A number of studies found that there is a depletion of some bacterial species, and an increase in "abundance" of other species in those with chronic sinusitis.

Now a new analysis of 11 recent studies comparing people with chronic sinusitis to healthy people adds some additional information. Once again a conclusion was that those with sinusitis had "dysbiosis" (microbial communities out of whack) in their sinus microbiomes when compared to healthy people. And that an increased "abundance" of members of the genus Corynebacterium in the sinuses was associated with chronic sinusitis (studies so far point to C. tuberculostearicum and C. accolens). Nothing new there... But what was new was that they found that bacteria of the genus Burkholderia and Propionibacterium seem to be "gatekeepers", whose presence may be important in maintaining a stable and healthy bacterial community in the sinuses. And that in chronic sinusitis the bacterial network of healthy communities is "fragmented". In other words, when a person is healthy, the community of microbes in the sinuses may provide a protective effect, and if the gatekeepers are removed (e.g., during illnesses or after taking antibiotics), then a "cycle of dysbiosis and inflammation" may begin.

PLEASE NOTE: Genus is a taxonomic category ranking used in biological classification that is below a family and above a species level. For example, Lactobacillus is the genus and sakei is the species. Also, the researchers discussed "gatekeepers" as being important for sinus health, while Susan Lynch discusses the importance of "keystone species" for sinus health.

OK... so which species of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium bacteria are found in the healthy microbiome? Unfortunately that was not answered in this study. And of course this needs to be tested further to see if the addition of the missing species of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium bacteria to the sinus microbiome will treat chronic sinusitis. Or perhaps other bacteria such as L. sakei and someother still unknown bacteria also need to be added to the mix.

Both Burkholderia and Propionibacterium have many species, but I have not seen any in probiotics. Species of Propionibacteria can be found all over the body and are generally nonpathogenic. However, P. acnes can cause the common skin condition acne as well as other infections. One species - Propionibacterium freudenreichii (or P. shermanii)  - is found in Swiss type cheeses such as Emmental, Jarlsberg, and Leerdammer. Propionibacteria species are commonly found in milk and dairy products, though they have also been extracted from soil. There are many Burkholderia species, with a number of them causing illness (e.g., B. mallei and B. pseudomallei), but also beneficial species, such as those involved with plant growth and healthBurkholderia species are found all over, in the soil, in plants, soil, water (including marine water), rhizosphere, animals and humans. At this point it is unclear to me which are the species found in healthy sinuses.

But it is clear that while L. sakei works to treat chronic sinusitis in many people, the fact that L. sakei typically has to be used after each illness (cold, sore throat, etc,) means that the sinus microbiome may still be missing microbial species or that there is still some sort of "imbalance" (even though the person may feel totally healthy). The researchers noted that a variety of fungi and viruses are also part of a normal sinus microbiome, but they weren't discussed in the article. As you can see, much is still unknown. Stay tuned..,..

This was a very technical article - thus not easy to read. Keep in mind that the information about the conclusions about the bacteria species in the sinuses was from studies that used modern genetic sequencing data (16S rRNA sequence data) to determine what bacteria are in the sinuses. (These are called "culture independent technologies" and much, much better than using cultures in determining species of bacteria.) This way they could analyze differences in "sinonasal bacterial community composition" and see differences between healthy people and persons with CRS (chronic rhinosinusitis).

Excerpts from Environmental Microbiology: Bacterial community collapse: a meta-analysis of the sinonasal microbiota in chronic rhinosinusitis

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is a common, debilitating condition characterized by long-term inflammation of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. The role of the sinonasal bacteria in CRS is unclear. We conducted a meta-analysis combining and reanalysing published bacterial 16S rRNA sequence data to explore differences in sinonasal bacterial community composition and predicted function between healthy and CRS affected subjects. The results identify the most abundant bacteria across all subjects as Staphylococcus, Propionibacterium, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus and an unclassified lineage of Actinobacteria.

The meta-analysis results suggest that the bacterial community associated with CRS patients is dysbiotic and ecological networks fostering healthy communities are fragmented. Increased dispersion of bacterial communities, significantly lower bacterial diversity, and increased abundance of members of the genus Corynebacterium are associated with CRS. Increased relative abundance and diversity of other members belonging to the phylum Actinobacteria and members from the genera Propionibacterium differentiated healthy sinuses from those that were chronically inflamed. Removal of Burkholderia and Propionibacterium phylotypes from the healthy community dataset was correlated with a significant increase in network fragmentation. This meta-analysis highlights the potential importance of the genera Burkholderia and Propionibacterium as gatekeepers, whose presence may be important in maintaining a stable sinonasal bacterial community.

The high density and diversity of host-associated microbial communities present in different body sites supports a near infinite number of potential host to microbe, and microbe to microbe interactions. A stable network of microbial interactions, established through processes such as niche competition, nutrient cycling, immune evasion, and biofilm formation help maintain homeostasis during health (Walter and Ley, 2011; Grice et al., 2009). Taxa that hold together the bacterial community by interacting with different parts of the network can be considered “gatekeepers” (sensu Freeman, 1980; Widder et al., 2014). During health, a consortium of microbes may provide a protective effect, and a breakdown in these networks due to the removal of gatekeepers may begin a self-perpetuating cycle of dysbiosis and inflammation (Vujkovic-Cvijin et al., 2013; Widder et al., 2014; Byrd and Segre, 2016).

The genus-level phylotype Corynebacterium was again associated with CRS bacterial communities, and Burkholderia was associated with healthy subjects.

In contrast to the variety of Actinobacteria and Betaproteobacteria phylotypes differentiating the healthy sinonasal bacterial communities, only one phylotype (Corynebacterium) was consistently associated with those individuals that were chronically inflamed. The significance of specific members of the genus Corynebacterium in CRS microbial communities is supported by findings in two previous studies (Abreu et al., 2012; Aurora et al., 2013). The relative abundance of C. tuberculostearicum and C. accolens was significantly higher in subjects with CRS in two recent 16S rRNA studies (Abreu et al., 2012 and Aurora et al., 2013, respectively). 

20131201_101300 As you may have noticed, I write about the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus sakei a lot. This is because it has turned out to be a great treatment for both chronic and acute sinusitis for my family and others (see post The One Probiotic That Treats Sinusitis). We originally found it in kimchi (it occurs in the kimchi during normal fermentation), but not all kimchi brands. Kimchi is a mix of vegetables (including typically cabbage) and seasonings, which is then fermented for days or weeks before it is eaten.

Why is L. sakei found in some kimchi, but not all? Which vegetable or spice is needed or important for encouraging L. sakei growth? It turns out it is not the cabbage - which is why L. sakei is not found in sauerkraut. A recent study looking at several kimchi samples found that garlic seems to be important for the development of various Lactobacillus bacteria, of which L. sakei is one. The results mean that raw garlic has very low levels of L. sakei, and it multiplies during kimchi fermentation. Note that as fermentation progresses, the bacterial species composition in the kimchi changes (this is called ecological succession). Korean studies (here and here) have consistently found L. sakei in many brands of kimchi (especially from about day 14 to about 2 or 2 1/2 months of fermentation), but not all kimchi brands or recipes. L.sakei, of which there are many strains, is so beneficial because it "outcompetes other spoilage- or disease-causing microorganisms" and so prevents them from growing (see post).

Excerpts are from the blog site Microbial Menagerie: MICROBES AT WORK IN YOUR KIMCHI

Cabbage is chopped up into large pieces and soaked in salt water allowing the water to draw out from the cabbage. Other seasonings such as spices, herbs and aromatics are prepared. Ginger, onion, garlic, and chili pepper are commonly used. The seasonings and cabbage are mixed together. Now the kimchi is ready to ferment. The mixture is packed down in a glass container and covered with the brining liquid if needed. The kimchi sits at room temperature for 1-2 days for fermentation to take place....Kimchi does not use a starter culture, but is still able to ferment. Then where do the fermentation microbes come from?

Phylogenetic analysis based on 16S rRNA sequencing indicates that the kimchi microbiome is dominated by lactic acid bacteria (LAB) of the genus Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella. Kimchi relies on the native microbes of the ingredients. That is, the microbes naturally found on the ingredients. Because of this, there may be wide variations in the taste and texture of the final kimchi product depending on the source of the ingredients. In fact, a research group from Chung-Ang University acquired the same ingredients from different markets and sampled the bacterial communities within each of the ingredients. The group found a wide variability in the same ingredient when it was bought from different markets. Surprisingly, the cabbage was not the primary source of LAB. Instead, Lactic acid bacteria was found in high abundance in the garlic samples

Note that Lactobacillus sakei is an example of a lactic acid bacteria. More study details from  the Journal of Food Science: Source Tracking and Succession of Kimchi Lactic Acid Bacteria during Fermentation.

This study aimed at evaluating raw materials as potential lactic acid bacteria (LAB) sources for kimchi fermentation and investigating LAB successions during fermentation. The bacterial abundances and communities of five different sets of raw materials were investigated using plate-counting and pyrosequencing. LAB were found to be highly abundant in all garlic samples, suggesting that garlic may be a major LAB source for kimchi fermentation. LAB were observed in three and two out of five ginger and leek samples, respectively, indicating that they can also be potential important LAB sources. LAB were identified in only one cabbage sample with low abundance, suggesting that cabbage may not be an important LAB source.

Bacterial successions during fermentation in the five kimchi samples were investigated by community analysis using pyrosequencing. LAB communities in initial kimchi were similar to the combined LAB communities of individual raw materials, suggesting that kimchi LAB were derived from their raw materials. LAB community analyses showed that species in the genera Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Weissella were key players in kimchi fermentation, but their successions during fermentation varied with the species, indicating that members of the key genera may have different acid tolerance or growth competitiveness depending on their respective species.

Although W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and Lb. sakei were not detected in the raw materials of kimchi samples D and E (indicating their very low abundances in raw materials), they were found to be predominant during the late fermentation period. Several previous studies have also reported that W. koreensis, Leu. mesenteroides, and L. sakei are the predominant kimchi LAB during fermentation (Jeong and others 2013a, 2013b; Jung and others 2011, 2012, 2013a, 2014). 


Image result for antibiotics Yes, of course this makes sense!.... Many rounds of antibiotics have an effect not just in one area of the body, but kill off both good and bad bacteria in many areas of the human body. The researchers in this study found that taking antibiotics for a reason OTHER THAN SINUSITIS was associated with an increased risk of developing chronic sinusitis (as compared to those people not receiving antibiotics). Use of antibiotics more than doubles the odds of developing chronic sinusitis without nasal polyps. And this effect lasted for at least 2 years. Other research has already associated antibiotic use with "decreased microbial diversity" in our microbiome  and with "opportunistic infections" such as Candida albicans and Clostridium difficile. Diseases such as Crohn's disease and diabetes are also linked to antibiotic use. In other words, when there is a disturbance in the microbiome (e.g.from antibiotics) and the community of microbes becomes "out of whack", then pathogenic bacteria are "enriched" (increase) and can dominate.

This study lumped together chronic sinusitis without nasal polyps (CRSsNP) and chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP), but when the 2 groups are separated out, then antibiotic use was mainly associated with chronic sinusitis without polyps. It appeared that antibiotic exposure did not significantly impact the odds of developing chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps. The researchers write: "This effect was primarily driven by the CRSsNP subgroup, which also supports the evolving concept of CRSwNP (chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps) as a disease of primary inflammation rather than infection. Despite this, we elected to analyze the CRS (chronic rhinosinusitis) group as a whole because the precise relationship between CRS with and without nasal polyps remains incompletely understood, and it is possible that a proportion of the CRSsNP patients could go on to develop nasal polyps over time."

Which makes me wonder, will giving beneficial bacteria (such as Lactobacillus sakei) to those who have chronic sinusitis with nasal polyps show the same improvement in symptoms as those people without nasal polyps? Or do 2 treatments have to occur at once: something to lower the inflammation (which may be the reason for the nasal polyps) and also beneficial microbes to treat the bacterial imbalance of sinusitis? We just don't know yet. Note that CRS = chronic rhinosinusitis (commonly called chronic sinusitis). From The Laryngoscope :

General antibiotic exposure is associated with increased risk of developing chronic rhinosinusitis 

Antibiotic use and chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) have been independently associated with microbiome diversity depletion and opportunistic infections. This study was undertaken to investigate whether antibiotic use may be an unrecognized risk factor for developing CRS. Case-control study of 1,162 patients referred to a tertiary sinus center for a range of sinonasal disorders.

Patients diagnosed with CRS according to established consensus criteria (n = 410) were assigned to the case group (273 without nasal polyps [CRSsNP], 137 with nasal polyps [CRSwNP]). Patients with all other diagnoses (n = 752) were assigned to the control group. Chronic rhinosinusitis disease severity was determined using a validated quality of life (QOL) instrument. The class, diagnosis, and timing of previous nonsinusitis-related antibiotic exposures were recorded.

Antibiotic use significantly increased the odds of developing CRSsNP  as compared to nonusers. Antibiotic exposure was significantly associated with worse CRS QOL {Quality of Life} scores over at least the subsequent 2 years. These findings were confirmed by the administrative data review. Use of antibiotics more than doubles the odds of developing CRSsNP and is associated with a worse QOL for at least 2 years following exposure. These findings expose an unrecognized and concerning consequence of general antibiotic use.

Antibiotic use and chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) have been independently associated with microbiome diversity depletion and opportunistic infections. This study was undertaken to investigate whether antibiotic use may be an unrecognized risk factor for developing CRS.....Antibiotics have also been associated with significant adverse side effects. It has long been recognized that antibiotic use may lead to increased susceptibility to secondary mucosal infections from pathogens including Candida albicans and Clostridium difficile.  Recent studies on the concept of mucosal microbial dysbiosis have suggested that these infections arise as a result of antibiotic induced depletion of the diverse commensal microbial assemblage, which enables the proliferation of pathogenic species.

Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is having greater than 12 weeks of sinonasal symptoms, along with at least one objective measure of infection or inflammation by nasal endoscopy or radiographic imaging....However the distinct lack of long-term disease resolution following antimicrobial therapy and in some cases surgery, suggests that additional factors are likely involved. Through these studies, CRS with nasal polyps (CRSwNP) has been recognized as an inflammatory subtype characterized by eosinophilic inflammation and a T-helper cell type 2 immunologic profile. Although CRSwNP lacks the features of a classic infectious process, the precise role of bacteria and their byproducts in the promotion of nasal polyp-related inflammation remains unclear.

Recent findings from culture independent investigations of the sinonasal microbiome have offered new insights into the pathogenesis of CRS. These studies have suggested that a decreased microbial diversity exists in CRS patients as compared to healthy controls with a selective enrichment of pathogenic species. Furthermore, some studies have shown that antibiotic exposure may be a risk factor associated with this loss of biodiversity,  echoing the findings seen in postantibiotic C. difficile infections.  Although systemic antibiotics have long been a mainstay of therapy for CRS, these findings lead inexorably to the paradoxical hypothesis that antibiotic exposure may, in fact, promote its onset.

We performed control study of 1,574 patients referred to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Sinus Center in 2014 with symptoms of presumed sinonasal disease.... Inclusion criteria included all antibotic naive patients, and all antibiotic exposed patients for whom antibiotic use was for nonsinonasal-related infections. Among the antibiotic exposed group, only patients who used antibiotics for nonsinonasal-related infections prior to the onset of symptoms of CRS (within the case group) were enrolled in the study.....The case group was further substratified into CRS patients without nasal polyps (CRSsNP, n =273) and with nasal polyps (CRSwNP, n =137) based on the presence of nasal polyps on sinonasal endoscopy.

Among the case patients, 56.34% reported a previous nonsinus-related antibiotic exposure as compared to 42.02% of control patients. Antibiotic use significantly increased the odds of developing both CRSsNP and any form of CRS as compared to nonusers. This odds ratio was similar even when excluding patients who were treated for upper aerodigestive infections. In contrast, antibiotic exposure did not significantly impact the odds of developing CRSwNP. The percent of patients with any form of CRS and CRSsNP only, which was attributable to a previous exposure to antibiotics, was 24.69%  and 33.70%, respectively. In both the case and control groups, the most common class of antibiotic patients received was a penicillin (52.63% vs. 45.77%), and the most common reported reason for antibiotic prescription was the diagnosis of pharyngitis(18.06% vs. 16.67%).

Among the CRS patients (i.e., case group), the use of antibiotics was significantly associated with worse QOL scores as compared to antibiotic-naıve CRS patients. The effect on QOL was enduring because patients who used antibiotics at least 2 years prior to the development of CRS (36.81%) had similar disease severity scores as compared to those with more recent exposures. There was no significant difference in QOL score among patients using different antibiotic classes and among patients with different underlying reasons for antibiotic use.

The human microbiome project has provided new insights into the distribution and abundance of bacterial species in both health and disease. Opportunistic pathogens, as defined by the pathosystems resource integration center, were found nearly ubiquitously in the nares of healthy subjects, albeit at relatively low abundance. Additional studies of the normal nasal cavity found an inverse correlation between the prevalence of Firmicutes such as S. aureus and benign commensal organisms, suggesting a homestatic antagonism between potential pathogens and the remainder of the healthy microbial assemblage. Extrapolation of this concept would therefore predict that events resulting in a perturbation or loss of the commensal microbial community would enable proliferation of pathogenic species, resulting in the disease phenotype. This prediction has borne out in several studies of the sinonasal microbiome in patients with CRS. Feazel et al. found a decreased number of bacterial types and an overabundance of S. aureus among CRS patients as compared to controls. Antibiotic exposure was one of the most significant clinical factors driving this effect. Similar findings were published by Choi et al. and Abreu et al.... Although literature regarding the sinonasal microbiome in health and disease remains nascent, it has provided some limited clues that antibiotics may lead to a reduction of sinonasal microbial biodiversity, which in turn may be a significant feature of CRS.

Our results demonstrate that exposure to antibiotics is a significant risk factor for the development of CRS and accounts for approximately 25% of the disease burden in our study population. These findings harmonize with the predictions of the nascent literature on the sinonasal microbiome. This effect was primarily driven by the CRSsNP subgroup, which also supports the evolving concept of CRSwNP as a disease of primary inflammation rather than infection. Despite this, we elected to analyze the CRS group as a whole because the precise relationship between CRS with and without nasal polyps remains incompletely understood, and it is possible that a proportion of the CRSsNP patients could go on to develop nasal polyps over time.....

One unexpected outcome of our study was that a large percentage of exposures preceeded the onset of the diagnosis of sinusitis by more than 2 years. This indicates that, regardless of the mechanism, the sequelae of antibiotic use may endure much longer then previously thought....The impact of antibiotics on promoting bacterial resistance, and the development of mucosal infections from pathogens such as C. difficile and C. albicans, has been well established. This study demonstrates that antibiotics also significantly increase the risk of developing CRS, an effect that is driven primarily by CRS patients who do not have nasal polyps. Furthermore, premorbid antibiotic use could account for approximately 25% of our patients who developed CRS, and exposure conferred a worse disease-specific quality of life.

 A recent study compared saline nasal irrigation vs steam inhalation vs doing both saline irrigation and steam inhalation vs doing neither (the control group) for chronic or recurring sinusitis symptoms. In the study, people with a history of chronic or recurring sinusitis symptoms were randomly assigned to one of the 4 groups, and then studied 3 months and 6 months later. The results were: a modest (slight improvement) in the saline irrigation group in symptom and quality-of-life scores, but no improvement for the steam inhalation group. However, the researchers noted that the control group also had slight improvements at 3 and 6 months. Most of the improvement in the saline irrigation group was in the group that also did steam inhalation - thus perhaps some benefit to combining both.

In addition, patients in the nasal irrigation group reported fewer headaches, fewer of them used over-the-counter medications, and said they were less likely to consult with a physician about their nasal problems in the future when compared with patients in the steam inhalation group.

Most people with chronic or recurring sinusitis will probably agree with the findings. Yes, effects are modest with saline irrigation, but it definitely does improve nasal stuffiness (experiences of family members and readers). But it does NOT treat the sinusitis. The sinus microbial community continues to stay out of whack (dysbiosis). Which explains the researchers' finding that saline irrigation and steam inhalation did not result in differences in antibiotic use or physician visits after 6 months.

From Science Daily: Nasal irrigation may prevent chronic sinus ailments

Advising patient with chronic sinus congestion to use nasal irrigation -- a popular nonpharmacologic treatment -- improved their symptoms, but steam inhalation did not, according to a randomized controlled trial published in CMAJ(Canadian Medical Association Journal). More than 25 million people in the United States and about 2.5 million Canadians suffer from chronic rhinosinusitis, or sinus infection, and experience compromised quality of life. To alleviate symptoms, steam inhalation and nasal irrigation are widely suggested as an alternative to common treatment with antibiotics, which are often not effective and contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Researchers from the United Kingdom conducted a randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of advice from primary care physicians to use nasal irrigation and/or steam inhalation for chronic sinusitis. The study involved 871 patients from 72 primary care practices in England who were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 advice strategies: usual care, daily nasal and saline irrigation supported by a demonstration video, daily steam inhalation, or combined treatment with both interventions.

Patients who were instructed to use nasal irrigation showed improvement at 3 and 6 months, as measured by the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index. Steam inhalation did not appear to alleviate symptoms of sinusitis.

"We found potentially important changes in other outcomes; in particular, fewer participants in the nasal irrigation group than in the no-irrigation group had headaches, used over-the-counter medications and intended to consult a doctor in future episodes," write the authors. "Although there was no significant difference in either physician visits or antibiotic use, as might be expected over only a 6-month follow-up period, our findings concerning consultations are important in the longer term, given antibiotic use increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance."

The Abstract (summary) of the study, which is from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ): Effectiveness of steam inhalation and nasal irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial

ABSTRACT  Background: Systematic reviews support nasal saline irrigation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms, but trials have been small and few in primary care settings. Steam inhalation has also been proposed, but supporting evidence is lacking. We investigated whether brief pragmatic interventions to encourage use of nasal irrigation or steam inhalation would be effective in relieving sinus symptoms.

Methods: We conducted a pragmatic randomized controlled trial involving adults (age 18–65 yr) from 72 primary care practices in the United Kingdom who had a history of chronic or recurrent sinusitis and reported a “moderate to severe” impact of sinus symptoms on their quality of life. Participants were recruited between Feb. 11, 2009, and June 30, 2014, and randomly assigned to 1 of 4 advice strategies: usual care, daily nasal saline irrigation supported by a demonstration video, daily steam inhalation, or combined treatment with both interventions. The primary outcome measure was the Rhinosinusitis Disability Index (RSDI). Patients were followed up at 3 and 6 months. We imputed missing data using multiple imputation methods.

Results: Of the 961 patients who consented, 871 returned baseline questionnaires (210 usual care, 219 nasal irrigation, 232 steam inhalation and 210 combined treatment). A total of 671 (77.0%) of the 871 participants reported RSDI scores at 3 months. Patients’ RSDI scores improved more with nasal irrigation than without nasal irrigation by 3 months (crude change −7.42 v. −5.23; estimated adjusted mean difference between groups −2.51, 95% confidence interval −4.65 to −0.37). By 6 months, significantly more patients maintained a 10-point clinically important improvement in the RSDI score with nasal irrigation (44.1% v. 36.6%); fewer used over-the-counter medications (59.4% v. 68.0%) or intended to consult a doctor in future episodes. Steam inhalation reduced headache but had no significant effect on other outcomes. The proportion of participants who had adverse effects was the same in both intervention groups.

Interpretation: Advice to use steam inhalation for chronic or recurrent sinus symptoms in primary care was not effective. A similar strategy to use nasal irrigation was less effective than prior evidence suggested, but it provided some symptomatic benefit.