~ Chronic sinus infections affect about 10% of the population.
~ Inflammation continues in the sinuses after an acute infection with a pathogen or allergies.
~ Genetic links to chronic inflammation point to specific solutions that may help.
Members will see their genotype report below, plus additional solutions in the Lifehacks section. Consider joining today.
What Causes Chronic Sinus Infections?
Doctors define chronic rhino-sinusitis as having inflamed sinuses (stuffiness, nasal discharge, and changes in the ability to smell) for 12 weeks or more. For many people, this can start with allergies or a cold that turns into a sinus infection that lingers on, never really clearing up and flaring up again periodically.
Chronic sinus infections often correlate with allergic rhinitis, frequent colds, atopic dermatitis, and asthma.[ref]
Your nose is constantly bringing in bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The first line of defense is the mucous membranes and cilia that clear out the particles coming into the nose.[ref]
In most people, the acute infection from a pathogen is not what continues to cause chronic sinus problems (defined as 12+ weeks). Instead, inflammation in the sinuses continues after a triggering episode (allergies, fungus, pathogen, etc.).[ref]
How do your genes influence sinus infections?
Genetics plays a role in the likelihood of having chronic sinus problems. The genetic component can range from genes that influence your inflammatory response to the mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or ciliary diseases.[ref]
When researchers investigate how genetics influences the risk of a condition, such as chronic sinus infections, they can go at this a couple of ways.
First, they can investigate whether specific genetic variants or mutations are more common in people with the condition. For example, researchers can look at people who carry one copy of the mutations that cause cystic fibrosis to see if they are linked to sinus infections. Or they can investigate genes related to immune response.
Another way to look at genetic connections is to do a ‘genome-wide association study’. These research studies involve looking at the whole genome of a large number of people and seeing if there is anything different about people with a particular condition. Lots of computing power is needed for these studies!
Genetic studies on chronic sinus infections:
Genome-wide studies link bitter taste receptor variants to susceptibility to chronic sinus infections.
You may be thinking – taste receptors in your nose? Researchers have discovered that taste receptors are found throughout the body and perform different functions. In your mouth, taste receptors are chemosensors abundant in taste bud cells. But these same receptors can detect secreted bacterial products in the nasal and sinus cavities and modulate the immune response.[ref]
The TAS2R38 gene codes for a bitter taste receptor. A fairly common variant in this gene causes some people not to taste certain bitter flavors. This lack of taste drives food preferences, to some extent, for things like bitter vegetables, coffee, and scotch.
In the airways, though, it is thought that the TAS2R receptors are important for sensing specific gram-negative bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a multi-drug resistant pathogen.[ref]
When the TAS2R38 receptor is activated in the nasal passages, it causes the secretion of nitric oxide. The increase in nitric oxide causes two things to happen: first, it increases the movement of cilia in the nose; and second, it can directly kill bacteria.[ref]
Nasal polyps are a risk factor for chronic sinus infections. A genetic variant that causes the ALOX15 gene not to function is associated with a greatly decreased risk of both nasal polyps and chronic sinus infections. The ALOX15 gene codes for an enzyme that is important in the metabolism of polyunsaturated fats. It is also important in the inflammatory response to certain pathogens, including pathogens that cause periodontal disease, peritonitis, sepsis, and atherosclerosis.[ref] Specifically, ALOX15 helps to convert DHA, a polyunsaturated fat found in fish oil, into pro-resolving mediators that promote the resolution of inflammation. Read more about the resolution of inflammation.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease causing an alteration to the thickness of mucous in the lungs, gut, and nasal passages. One complication of cystic fibrosis is chronic sinus infections, including those with drug-resistant P. aeruginosa. It is a big problem for people with cystic fibrosis because the pathogen can spread from the nose to the lungs, causing serious lung infections.[ref]
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is another genetic disease linked to an increased risk of chronic sinus infections. Mutations in the SERPINA1 gene cause alterations to the alpha-1 antitrypsin enzyme, which is active in the lungs at all times but is also part of the immune response against infections. People with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are at a greater risk for chronic rhinosinusitis.[ref]
Increased inflammatory response, both to pathogens and overall inflammation, is also implicated in chronic sinus infections. While many inflammatory cytokine-related genetic variants have been investigated, only a few studies have been replicated in more than one population group. However, the TNF-alpha variants have been found to increase the risk of chronic sinus infections in several studies. The TNF gene codes for tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which is a major player in the regulation of immune cells.
Chronic Sinus Infections Genotype Report
Not a member? Join here. Membership lets you see your data right in each article and also gives you access to the member’s only information in the Lifehacks sections.
TAS2R38 Gene: codes for a bitter taste receptor. The receptor is also important in detecting certain bacteria in the nose and triggering the release of nitric oxide to kill the infection-causing bacteria. When the receptor doesn’t function well, sinus infections could be more likely to take hold.
Check your genetic data for rs10246939 (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
- C/C: Can taste bitter (such as in broccoli); less likely to have chronic sinus infections[ref]
- C/T: Probably can taste some bitter
- T/T: Unable to taste some bitter flavors; more likely to have chronic sinus infections
Members: Your genotype for rs10246939 is —.
Check your genetic data for rs713598 (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
- G/G: Can taste bitter in broccoli, etc.[ref], less likely to have chronic sinus infections[ref]
- C/G: Probably can taste bitter
- C/C: Probably unable to taste some bitter flavors
Members: Your genotype for rs713598 is —.
NOS1 gene: codes for nitric oxide synthase 1, which helps kill bacteria in the nose.
Check your genetic data for rs9658281 (23andMe v4; AncestryDNA):
- T/T: decreased risk of chronic sinus infections[ref][ref]
- C/T: decreased risk of chronic sinus infections
- C/C: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs9658281 is —.
ALOX15 gene: encodes an enzyme important in the metabolism of polyunsaturated fats, creation of specialized pro-resolving mediators, and the resolution of inflammation.
Check your genetic data for rs34210653 (23andMe v4, v5):
- A/A: significantly reduced risk for nasal polyps, chronic sinus infections[ref]
- A/G: significantly reduced risk for nasal polyps, chronic sinus infections
- G/G: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs34210653 is —.
IL1RL1 gene: encodes the interleukin-1 receptor, which is important in the immune response.
Check your genetic data for rs13431828 (AncestryDNA):
- T/T: protective against chronic sinus infections[ref]
- C/T: protective against chronic sinus infections
- C/C: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs13431828 is —.
SERPINA1 gene: codes for alpha-1 antitrypsin
Check your genetic data for rs1243168 (23andMe v4, v5):
- A/A: 6-fold increased risk of chronic rhinosinusitis[ref]
- A/G: typical risk
- G/G: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs1243168 is —.
TNF gene: codes for TNF-alpha, which regulates immune response
Check your genetic data for rs1800629 308G>A (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
- A/A: increased TNF-alpha, increased risk of nasal polyps, sinus infections[ref]
- A/G: increased TNF-alpha, increased risk of nasal polyps, sinus infections[ref]
- G/G: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs1800629 is —.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: If you have any of the variants highlighted below, read through the article on alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency mutations.
|Gene||RS ID||Effect Allele||Your Genotype||Notes About Effect Allele|
|SERPINA1||rs28931568||T||--||Pi Mineral Springs mutation|
|SERPINA1||rs61761869||A||--||Pi Procida mutation|
|TNF||rs361525||A||--||increased likelihood of having chronic bronchitis with Pi*Z mutation|
|GSTP1||rs1695||G||--||G/G: reduced function, increased risk of COPD in AAT deficiency|
Cystic Fibrosis: Check out the article on carrier status for cystic fibrosis.
Lifehacks: Natural solutions for chronic sinus infections
Neti pot or nasal irrigation:
Many studies show that nasal irrigation statistically improves chronic sinus infections. There are several ways to do sinus irrigation, including using a neti pot. Make sure to only use distilled water for your saline rinse.[ref][ref][ref]
Iodine rinse: One study found that a 0.08% diluted povidone-iodine solution reduced sinus infection symptoms in patients with ‘recalcitrant’ infections.[ref] Look for a package for sinus rinse or a prepared solution labeled for sinus infections. Povidone-iodine is also called betadine.
The rest of the lifehacks and supplement recommendations are for members only. Consider joining today.
Related Articles and Genes:
Top 10 Genes to Check in Your Genetic Raw Data
Wondering what is actually important in your genetic data? These 10 genes have important variants with a big impact on health. Check your genes (free article).
Mast cells: MCAS, genetics, and solutions
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, or MCAS, is a recently recognized disease involving mast cells misbehaving in various ways. Symptoms of MCAS can include abdominal pain, nausea, itching, flushing, hives, headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, brain fog, and anaphylaxis.
Chronic headaches, sinus drainage, itchy hives, problems staying asleep, and heartburn — all these symptoms can be caused by the body not breaking down histamine very well. Your genetic variants could be causing you to be more sensitive to foods high in histamine. Check your genetic data to see if this could be at the root of your symptoms.
Genetics and Food Allergies
Do you have a food allergy? Discover how environmental factors and genetic susceptibility can shape individual reactions.
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Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering and also an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.