Some people who suffer from chronic sinus infections may be predisposed to them because they carry the same genetic mutation that causes cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that among 147 patients who visited Hopkins because of chronic sinusitis, 7 percent carried a copy of the mutated gene responsible for CF, known as CFTR.

Researchers have known for some time that CF results when a person inherits the CFTR gene from both parents. "But we've long wondered if having just one mutant CFTR gene has any health effect," says team member Garry R. Cutting. Based on the new results, the team estimates that individuals carrying a single CFTR gene are twice as likely as non-carriers to develop repeated sinus infections. "That said, we don't recommend that everyone with chronic sinus problems get their CFTR genes tested. The research is still at an early stage," Cutting cautions. "The knowledge may prove useful therapeutically, however. Some sinusitis patients might be helped by treatments developed for CF. Further, genetic testing may allow us to single out patients with the most severe form of chronic sinusitis, those who may benefit from therapy aimed precisely at their underlying problem."