Microbiome of the paranasal sinuses: Update and literature review

Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2016 Jan-Feb;30(1):3-16. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2016.30.4255.


Background: Our understanding of the resident microbiome of the paranasal sinuses has changed considerably in recent years. Once presumed to be sterile, healthy sinus cavities are now known to harbor a diverse assemblage of microorganisms, and, it is hypothesized that alterations in the kinds and quantities of these microbes may play a role in the pathogenesis of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS).

Objectives: To review the current literature regarding the sinus microbiome and collate research findings from relevant studies published to date.

Methods: A systematic literature review was performed on all molecular studies that investigated the microbial communities of the paranasal sinuses. Methods of detection, microbiome composition, and comparative profiling between patients with and without CRS were explored.

Results: A complex consortium of microorganisms has been demonstrated in the sinuses of both patients with and without CRS. However, the latter generally have been characterized by reduced biodiversity compared with controls, with selective enrichment of particular microbes (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus). Such disruptions in the resident microbiome may contribute to disease pathogenesis by enhancing the virulence of potential pathogens and adversely modulating immune responses.

Conclusion: The advent of culture-independent molecular approaches has led to a greater appreciation of the intricate microbial ecology of the paranasal sinuses. Microbiota composition, distribution, and abundance impact mucosal health and influence pathogen growth and function. A deeper understanding of the host-microbiome relationship and its constituents may encourage development of new treatment paradigms for CRS, which target restoration of microbiome homeostasis and cultivation of optimal microbial communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Biodiversity
  • Chronic Disease
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / genetics*
  • Paranasal Sinuses / immunology
  • Paranasal Sinuses / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / analysis
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / microbiology*
  • Sinusitis / microbiology*


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S