British scientists have developed a new nasal spray, using bacteria derived from seaweed, that holds promise as an effective new treatment for chronic sinus infections.
A team of scientists and surgeons from Newcastle University have found that an enzyme from a marine bacterium — known as Bacillus licheniformis — found on the surface of seaweed is a potent weapon against chronic sinusitis. The team made the unexpected discovery while testing the microbe for possible use in cleaning the hulls of ships.
In a report published in the Public Library of Science Journal PLOS ONE, the team noted the bacteria that cause chronic sinusitis often form a slimy protective barrier — a “biofilm” — that protects them from sprays or antibiotics. But laboratory tests showed that the seaweed enzyme, called NucB, destroyed such biofilms and cleared the bacteria nearly 60 percent of the time.
"In effect, the enzyme breaks down the extracellular DNA, which is acting like a glue to hold the cells to the surface of the sinuses,” said Nicholas Jakubovics, M.D., of Newcastle University. “In the lab, NucB cleared over half of the organisms we tested."
Sinusitis strikes more than one in 10 people and is among the most common reasons for doctor visits.
"Sinusitis is all too common and a huge burden” on the healthcare system, said Mohamed Reda Elbadawey, a head and neck surgeon at the Newcastle-affiliated Freeman Hospital. “For many people, symptoms include a blocked nose, nasal discharge or congestion, recurrent headaches, loss of the sense of smell, and facial pain.”
Elbadawey added that while steroid nasal sprays and antibiotics can help some people, “for the patients I see, they have not been effective and these patients have to undergo the stress of surgery. If we can develop an alternative we could benefit thousands of patients a year."
For the new study, the Newcastle team tested the enzyme on 24 different bacterial strains from samples taken from 20 patients. The treatment was effective against biofilms formed by 14 of those strains, the results showed.
The team's next step is to further test and develop the product for wider use.
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