By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN
Results from a recently published study have reported that there is a link between the bacteria that live in your nose (your nasal microbiome) and the type and severity of symptoms an individual gets when they “catch” a cold.i
The researchers, led by Ron Turner, MD at the University of Virginia, found that the bacteria in volunteers’ noses fell into six different patterns of nasal microbiomes. The different patterns were associated with differences in symptom severity. The compositions also were found to correlate with viral load – the amount of cold virus inside the body.
Dr. Turner, who is a longtime cold researcher, admitted that he was surprised by this new discovery. “The first surprise was that you can kind of identify these different buckets that people kind of fit into, and then the fact that the buckets seem to have some impact on how you respond to the virus and how sick you get was also interesting,” said Ronald B. Turner, MD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “There were effects on virus load and how much virus you shed in your nasal secretions. So the background microbiome, the background bacterial pattern in your nose, had influences on the way that you reacted to the virus and how sick you got.”
Dr. Turner stressed that the microorganisms living in your nose aren’t causing the cold but are caused by a ‘cold’ virus. At this point, the researchers can’t say whether the bacteria in your nasal microbiome are actually responsible for or related to the differences in the severity of your cold symptoms.
Could probiotics shorten your cold? In this study, the researchers tested the nasal microbiome in 152 study participants before and after giving them the cold virus, which ruled out the possibility that the virus or the resulting sickness was altering the composition of the microbiome significantly. The researchers gave the study participants a probiotic to drink, and the study revealed that the oral probiotic did not affect the microbiome in their noses.
In the future, will it be possible to create and deliver a probiotic nasal spray that might influence the severity of your cold. Dr. Turner, who has been researching colds for decades, refused to speculate. He simply said, that would be an interesting topic for future studies along with evaluating if, or administration of oral antibiotics might affect the nasal microbiome.
Lehtinen MJ, et al. Nasal microbiota clusters associate with inflammatory response, viral load, and symptom severity in experimental rhinovirus challenge. Scientific Reports. Jan 8, 2018; 8(1):11411.