Drivers of chronic rhinosinusitis: Inflammation versus infection

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Studies of the underlying cause or causes of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) over the past 20 or more years have expanded from a focus on systemic immune and allergic mechanisms to an intense search for the underlying drivers of mucosal inflammation. These drivers involve mucosal inflammatory pathways that become activated by allergens, microbial stimuli, or poorly understood exogenous or endogenous stimuli. The holy grail in the study of CRS is to identify specific drivers of mucosal inflammation and translate these into more effective treatment for CRS. Certain deficiencies in local innate immunity have been described in patients with CRS that predispose to increased sinus mucosal bacterial colonization/infection, including deficient local production of antimicrobial lactoferrin and deficient functioning of the bitter taste receptor TAS2R38. Conversely, certain innate factors, namely IL-25, IL-33, and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), are elaborated by sinus epithelial cells in response to microbial stimulation or airway injury and promote local TH2 inflammation. The precise physiologic role of these factors in innate or adaptive immunity is unclear, although IL-33 might function as an alarmin triggered by damage-associated molecular patterns. The cytokines IL-25 and TSLP, similarly promote proinflammatory tissue responses. Another feature of epithelial dysregulation in patients with CRS is overproduction of eosinophil-promoting C-C chemokines by sinus epithelium, perhaps driven in part through innate stimuli, as well as TH2 cytokines, such as IL-13. Strategies to reduce the microbial stimulation of maladaptive TH2 inflammation or to suppress the local elaboration of TH2-promoting epithelial factors, such as IL-33, have potential therapeutic benefit in patients with CRS, although the extent to which this is realized in patient care remains limited at present. This rostrum will summarize my views on the major microbial drivers of mucosal inflammation and dysregulation of innate TH2-promoting factors in patients with CRS based on recent experimental data.

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