What lives in our nose?

Every human being has an individual bacterial signature in the nasal cavity

Our nose harbors a very individual environment of bacteria. © Photo.com / thinkstock
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Teeming life: Each person carries in his nose with his own little life world around. Because the microbes of the nasal cavity are individually different for each, as German researchers have determined. Nevertheless, there are similar subsets of the nasal flora. Knowing about these groups could facilitate medical treatment in the future.

We are never alone: ​​microbes live in and around us, whether in the gut, on our skin or even in the air around us. The composition of this microbiome reveals something about us, our health and our way of life, even the dust in our homes carries this personal and telltale signature.

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig have now examined a special refuge of our microbiome: our noses. For their study, they took smears and tissue samples from different areas of the nasal cavity in 80 subjects and analyzed their microbial composition.

Individual like a fingerprint

The result: Every person carries around in his nose a very individual world of bacteria. This bacterial signature is almost as distinctive as a fingerprint. Most microbes of the nasal cavity are harmless, others can cause disease.

Surprisingly, it makes no difference at which point of the nose one examines the bacterial composition: "This is a completely different result than one obtains it in examinations of the oral cavity, " explains senior author Dietmar Pieper. "There are sharply demarcated areas with very different bacterial communities." Display

Similar groups of nasal flora

However, the nasal microbiomas follow certain patterns. In summary, at least 13 similar subsets of the nasal flora can be distinguished, as the researchers report. The most common are bacterial communities, in which the rather harmless bacterial species Corynebacterium accolens dominated. Another group has - in addition to other germs - particularly many potentially problematic Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Some strains of this bacterial species are resistant to many common antibiotics. "Mostly they do not cause any symptoms, but if they penetrate open wounds, for example, it can be very problematic, " explains Pieper. The knowledge of these microbiome groups could therefore be of medical importance, for example if the persons concerned react differently to antibiotic treatments or other therapies.

"It can be assumed that the individual microbiome influences the effectiveness of different therapies, " says Pieper. "With the presence of a limited number of microbiome types, we see the potential to tailor personalized medicine treatments to the individual patient."

No difference in chronic nasal inflammation

The researchers were also surprised by the fact that in people suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis - a persistent inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose and sinuses - they found the same groups of bacterial profiles as with healthy people. There were no other microbes left, and they did not. The presence of nasal polyps also seems to have little influence on the bacterial flora in our noses.

"One would have expected that in chronic inflammation other germs prevail numerically be it as a cause or as a consequence of the disease, " explains Pieper. "The role of bacteria in rhinosinusitis remains unexplained." (Environmental Microbiology, 2016; doi: 10.1111 / 1462-2920.13378)

(Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, 27.05.2016 - NPO)