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Are Researchers Studying Sinusitis?

NIAID supports research to better understand the immune system in health and disease and to develop new treatments. Examples of NIAID-supported research to improve our understanding of the causes of sinusitis and to develop treatments for the condition include the following:

  • Most people who have moderate to severe asthma also have chronic rhinosinusitis, suggesting that these two diseases may be the same disease occurring in the lower and upper parts of the respiratory system, respectively. NIAID supports research to understand the causes of chronic airway inflammation in asthma that could help scientists understand chronic rhinosinusitis and develop more effective treatment and prevention strategies.

    micrograph of streptococcus Pnemoniae
    Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • At least two-thirds of acute sinusitis cases are caused by two bacteria: Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae. NIAID supports studies to better understand how these bacteria cause infection and to identify potential targets for future vaccination strategies that could prevent these infections.

  • NIAID funds research that examines the causes of thickening and inflammation of the lining of the sinuses and nasal passages. These projects also focus on the cells that produce mucus and line the sinuses and nasal passages.

  • In many people who have chronic rhinosinusitis, especially those with nasal polyps, a large number of eosinophils (white blood cells that have strong inflammatory properties) are found in the tissues that line the sinuses and nasal passages. NIAID funds several projects that examine the role of eosinophils and the messenger molecules they produce in causing chronic sinus inflammation and chronic rhinosinusitis with polyps.

  • NIAID supports research to test the theory that chronic rhinosinusitis is caused by an exaggerated immune response to fungi. One study has shown that when blood cells from people who have chronic rhinosinusitis are exposed to fungal material, these cells make messenger molecules that cause inflammation.

  • NIAID supports projects to identify human genes and proteins that are different in patients who have chronic rhinosinusitis from those whose sinuses are healthy. The results will help us understand the causes of chronic rhinosinusitis and develop promising new treatments. For example, research has found that some people who have chronic rhinosinusitis also have certain alterations in the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.

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Last Updated March 09, 2011