Contrasting the microbiomes from healthy volunteers and patients with chronic rhinosinusitis

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Dec;139(12):1328-38. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.5465.


Importance: Chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) is the persistent inflammation of the sinus and nasal passages lasting over 3 months. The etiology of CRS is not well understood.

Objective: To obtain insights into the disease process, we contrasted the microbiome and immune response from patients with CRS and healthy controls.

Design, setting, and participants: A case vs control design was used. Samples were collected in the operating room in an institutional hospital or clinic. Thirty patients with CRS and 12 healthy controls undergoing surgery were recruited.

Main outcomes and measures: The microbiome was analyzed by deep sequencing of the bacterial 16S and fungal 18S ribosomal RNA genes. Immune response was measured by quantification of 30 different cytokines by multiplexed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and immune cells in the lavage were identified by flow cytometry. The immune response of peripheral blood leukocytes to the lavage microbiota was assessed by interleukin (IL)-5 enzyme-linked immunospot assay.

Results: While quantitative increase in most bacterial and fungal species was observed in patients with CRS relative to controls, the microbiomes of patients with CRS were qualitatively similar to the controls. Because these results indicated that bacteria and fungi are not triggering CRS, we undertook a more detailed characterization of the immune response. Patients with CRS had increased levels of the following cytokines: IL-4, IL-5, IL-8, and IL-13, along with increased levels of eosinophils and basophils in the lavage. Importantly, peripheral blood leukocytes isolated from patients with CRS responded to control lavage samples (ie, to commensals) to produce IL-5. In contrast, the same lavage sample evoked no IL-5 production in leukocytes from healthy controls.

Conclusions and relevance: These findings support the theory that in some cases CRS results from an immune hyperresponsiveness to commensal organisms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • DNA, Fungal / analysis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Interleukins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microbiota / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Ribosomal / analysis
  • RNA, Ribosomal / immunology
  • Reference Values
  • Rhinitis / immunology
  • Rhinitis / microbiology*
  • Rhinitis / surgery
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sinusitis / immunology
  • Sinusitis / microbiology*
  • Sinusitis / surgery


  • Cytokines
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Fungal
  • Interleukins
  • RNA, Ribosomal