A new protein profile has been pinpointed in the blood of chronic sinusitis patients by researchers at Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine. The researchers say this finding might help doctors to objectively diagnose and treat the condition.
The research team used a sophisticated research tool that rapidly assesses expression of large numbers of proteins and found among 96 chronic sinusitis patients a profile missing in 38 healthy controls.
"We can diagnose this disease with a totally objective test that does not depend on symptoms or observations," said Dr. Stilianos E. Kountakis, vice chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine.
In the study, researchers analyzed protein expression in the blood using surface enhanced laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectroscopy or SELDI-TOF-MS. The test is about 88 percent accurate.
Diagnosing this chronically irritating disease, characterized by dripping noses, sinus pressure, congestion and difficulty breathing, currently is rather subjective.
Patients talk about symptoms and doctors look at their sinuses with an endoscope and probably a computerized tomography scan.
"... (O)verall management of (chronic sinusitis) is still hampered by the lack of quantifiable, molecular and genetic markers to aid in screening," the researchers said.
To be classified chronic, the misery has to continue for at least 12 weeks. Causes include bacterial infections, respiratory inflammation, sinus polyps and mucosal disease. Some causes, such as polyps and asthma, have a genetic predisposition.
"You may have a bacterial infections, allergies, mechanical problems. There are numerous genes that control respiratory function. Any of these things can go wrong to predispose the patient to develop chronic sinusitis," said Dr. Kountakis.
Treating the disease is much more straightforward. Surgery can help correct anatomical causes such as deviated septums or polyps. However, there are no FDA-aproved drugs specifically to treat chronic sinusitis. Instead, physicians use drugs that treat symptoms: steroid sprays for inflammation, mucus thinners, saline irrigation, etc.
"It's difficult to show drugs are effective because it's difficult to group patients together and measure their disease," said Dr. Kountakis.
The study is published in the American Journal of Rhinology.