Resident aerobic microbiota of the adult human nasal cavity

APMIS. 2000 Oct;108(10):663-75. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0463.2000.d01-13.x.


Recent evidence strongly suggests that the microbiota of the nasal cavity plays a crucial role in determining the reaction patterns of the mucosal and systemic immune system. However, little is known about the normal microbiota of the nasal cavity. The purpose of this study was to determine the microbiota in different parts of the nasal cavity and to develop and evaluate methods for this purpose. Samples were collected from 10 healthy adults by nasal washes and by swabbing of the mucosa through a sterile introduction device. Both methods gave results that were quantitatively and qualitatively reproducible, and revealed significant differences in the density of the nasal microbiota between individuals. The study revealed absence of gram-negative bacteria that are regular members of the commensal microbiota of the pharynx. Likewise, viridans type streptococci were sparsely represented. The nasal microbiota was dominated by species of the genera Corynebacterium, Aureobacterium, Rhodococcus, and Staphylococcus, including S. epidermis, S. capitis, S. hominis, S. haemolyticus, S. lugdunensis and S. warneri. These studies show that the microbiota of the nasal cavity of adults is strikingly different from that of the pharynx, and that the nasal cavity is a primary habitat for several species of diphtheroids recognized as opportunistic pathogens. Under special circumstances, single species, including IgA1 protease-producing bacteria, may become predominant in a restricted area of the nasal mucosa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / isolation & purification
  • Adult
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / classification
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / isolation & purification*
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / metabolism
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Corynebacterium / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Cavity / immunology
  • Nasal Cavity / microbiology*
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology
  • Nasal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Rhodococcus / isolation & purification
  • Serine Endopeptidases / biosynthesis
  • Species Specificity
  • Staphylococcus / isolation & purification


  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • IgA-specific serine endopeptidase