Chronic sinusitis is the most common chronic condition in the United States. It is not only painful, but also hard to treat in some patients. Until recently, the cause of chronic sinusitis was something of a mystery, but researchers at the St. Louis University School of Medicine think they may be onto solving it.

The researchers, led by Rajeev Aurora, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the university, believe that sinus infections are not caused by bacteria or fungi as previously thought, but instead by something like an allergic reaction, where the body reacts to harmless microorganisms called commensals.

In healthy people, commensals are ignored by the body and cause no harm. In people with chronic sinusitis, the immune system overreacts to the commensals, causing the inflammation of the nasal passages, which leads to stuffiness.

By Ramie A. Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT

Photo by: mcfarlandmo