"This strikingly teaches against what has been thought worldwide about the origin of chronic sinus infection: that inflammatory cells break down, releasing toxic proteins into the diseased airway tissue," says lead researcher and Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat specialist Jens Ponikau, M.D. "Instead we found that these toxic proteins are released into the mucus, and not in the tissue. Therefore, scientists might need to take not only the tissue but also the mucus into account when trying to understand what causes chronic sinus infections and probably other airway diseases."
The findings could significantly change the way chronic sinus infection is treated, according to Dr. Ponikau.
"This has far-reaching implications," says Dr. Ponikau. "This suggests a beneficial effect in treatments that target primarily the underlying and presumably damage-inflicting nasal and sinus membrane inflammation, instead of the secondary bacterial infection that has been the primary target of treatments for the disease. Also, some surgeons have already started to change the way they do surgery for patients with chronic sinus infections, focusing now on removing the mucus, which is loaded with toxins from the inflammatory cells, rather than the tissue during surgery. Leaving the mucus behind might predispose patients for early recurrence of the chronic sinus infection."
Dr. Ponikau conducted this research along with Hirohito Kita, M.D., and Gail Kephart, Mayo Clinic allergic diseases researchers. David Sherris, M.D., and Eugene Kern, M.D., both former Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat specialists who now