Aim: The prevalence of intracellular Staphylococcus aureus organisms in the nasal mucosa of patients with recurrent infectious rhinosinusitis episodes was studied.
Method: Twenty-seven consecutive adult patients who failed medical management of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) of multiple origins, associated or not with nasal polyposis, were consecutively enrolled for endonasal sinus surgery (including partial middle turbinectomy, middle antrostomy, ethmoidectomy, sphenoidotomy) and followed for a 12-month post-operative period.
Results: Seventeen of these patients showed the presence of intracellular S. aureus as detected by confocal laser scan immunofluorescence microscopy in epithelial cells of surgical intranasal biopsy specimens. Nine of the patients with and two without intracellular bacteria yielded S. aureus in endoscopically guided cultures of middle meatus secretions, despite the recent administration of prophylactic antibiotics. Eleven of the 17 patients with intracellular S. aureus relapsed for rhinosinusitis within the 12-month follow-up period. Molecular typing of sequential S. aureus isolates demonstrated the persistence of unique patient-specific S. aureus clonotypes in nine of the patients with intracellular bacteria during the 12-month follow-up.
Conclusion: The presence of intracellular S. aureus in epithelial cells of the nasal mucosa is a significant risk factor for recurrent episodes of rhinosinusitis due to persistent bacterial clonotypes, which appear refractory to antimicrobial and surgical therapy.