Can healthy sinuses be colonized with bacteria?

Updated: Mar 01, 2018
  • Author: Itzhak Brook, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Data are available that support the fact that healthy sinuses are colonized. The bacterial flora of noninflamed sinuses were studied for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in 12 adults who underwent corrective surgery for septal deviation. [9] Organisms were recovered from all aspirates, with an average of 4 isolates per sinus aspirate. The predominant anaerobic isolates were Prevotella, Porphyromonas, Fusobacterium and Peptostreptococcus species. The most common aerobic bacteria were S pyogenes, S aureus, S pneumonia, and H influenzae. In another study, specimens were processed for aerobic bacteria only, and Staphylococcus species and alpha-hemolytic streptococci were isolated. [10] Organisms were recovered in 20% of maxillary sinuses of patients who underwent surgical repositioning of the maxilla.

In contrast, another report of aspirates of 12 volunteers with no sinus disease showed no bacterial growth. [11] Jiang et al evaluated the bacteriology of maxillary sinuses with normal endoscopic findings. [12] Organisms were recovered from 14 (47%) of 30 swab specimens and 7 (41%) of 17 of mucosal specimens. Gordts et al reported the microbiology of the middle meatus in normal adults and children. [13] This study noted in 52 patients that 75% had bacterial isolates present, most commonly coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) (35%), Corynebacterium species (23%), and S aureus (8%) in adults. Low numbers of these species were present. In children, the most common organisms were H influenzae (40%), M catarrhalis (34%), and S pneumoniae (50%), a marked difference from findings in adults. Nonhemolytic streptococci and Moraxella species were absent in adults.

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