Chronic Sinusitis? Mold could be the Culprit!

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Headaches
Photo by Gia Ciccone, CC BY

In the United States, sinusitis is the most common chronic disease with more than 37 million people suffering from this condition. Researchers at Mayo Clinic have come to the conclusion that toxic mold is the cause of chronic sinusitis.

Headaches accompanied by nasal congestion or runny nose are the usual symptoms of black mold-induced sinusitis. Loss of smell also occurs as the membranes lining the nose as well as the sinuses get inflamed. Often, small growths called polyps develop in the nasal passage, making breathing difficult.

The number of people affected by chronic sinusitis has increased over the last ten years. The cause of this chronic condition has not been clear until three ENT specialists from Mayo clinic, Dr. David Sherris, Dr. Jens Ponikau and Dr. Eugene Kern published the results of their studies in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings report.

About 10% of chronic sinusitis cases were previously considered as allergic?symptoms of black mold such as Stachybotrys commonly found in homes and offices. However, these Mayo Clinic researchers insist that molds are behind almost all the cases and that symptoms of chronic sinusitis are really symptoms of black mold exposure. According to Dr Sherris, “fungus is likely the cause of nearly all of these problems. And it is not an allergic reaction, but an immune reaction.”
The study on chronic sinusitis was conducted on 210 patients. They used the latest methods of taking samples of mucus from patients’ nostrils. On testing these, toxic molds were found in more than 96% of the cases. They could identify forty kinds of molds!

101 of these patients had had nasal polyps removed by surgery. In 96% of the cases the white blood cell, eosinophil was found in the nasal tissue and the mucus secretions. Eosinophils are usually activated as an immune response of the body. This finding led the researchers to believe that the symptoms of chronic sinusitis are caused by an immune response to toxic molds and therefore can be considered as symptoms of mold exposure. Besides attacking the fungi, these eosinophils inflame the nasal membranes. Hence, inflammation persists as long as the mold particles are present.

According to Dr. Kern, this finding “offers great hope for the millions of people who suffer from this problem.” Until now only the symptoms of chronic sinusitis could be treated. Now that we know that the symptoms of sinusitis are really black mold symptoms, new treatments targeting the molds and their mycotoxins can be developed. “Finally, we are on the trail of a treatment that may actually work.” Dr. Ponikau says.

The researchers say that chronic sinusitis, which lasts more than three months, is different from acute sinusitis, which resolves within a month. The latter is caused by a bacterial infection. Antibiotics, commonly used to treat sinusitis, are not effective against chronic sinusitis as they destroy only bacteria. Decongestants provide temporary relief from some symptoms of black mold-induced sinusitis, but not from the inflammatory condition.

Unicellular fungi such as yeasts and molds are present everywhere. Their spores cause allergies just like pollen. But the research at Mayo Clinic shows that the immune response of some people may be causing sinusitis.

Mayo Clinic is conducting further research to confirm this discovery. Pharmaceutical companies are involved so that trials can be conducted on medicines to control the symptoms of black mold. However, it may take two years for an effective treatment to be available.

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