Mucus Transplants

While reading the news the other day, a certain article caught my eye. Or should I say caught my nose? According to the Vancouver Sun, Dr. Amin Javer from St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC is running a very peculiar experiment. It consists of taking a healthy person’s mucus and implanting it in a patient with Chronic Rhinosinusitis. This may sound weird at first, but the idea isn’t completely crazy. Here’s how it goes down.

Dr. Javer with a patient (c) Nick Procaylo for Vancouver Sun, CCBY 2.0

Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS)

Chronic Rhinosinusitis is a disease where the sinuses of a patient swell up.  This causes mucus buildup, which can lead to symptoms such as a reduced sense of taste and smell, nasal congestion, and thick mucus drainage in the nose and throat. No fun. Chronic Rhinosinusitis (CRS can be caused by different things from hay fever, nasal polyps, or simply a deviated septum. It is fairly common as it affects 5% of the Canadian population.

This condition is usually treated with antibiotic rinses. These are effective on a short term, but like with any other antibiotic, it kills everything in its way. Good and bad bacterias are both eliminated and the sinus’ microbiome is left damaged. This is where Dr. Javer’s new solution comes in.

The experiment

Dr. Javer’s experiment consists of transplanting healthy mucus from someone else into a patient’s sinus. This technique has previously been used with fecal transplants to help people suffering from infections in the stomach causing diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Transplants are effective because unlike antibiotics, they do not eliminate good bacteria. In theory, transplanting mucus may work in the same way and help stabilize the nasal microbiome.

The experiment will consist of 200 patients with CRS. A third of the patients will be treated with a transplant, while the rest will be treated with regular antibiotics and a transplant. The success rate of both methods will be calculated and compared to see how effective transplants are.

Sign me up!

While the proposal has been approved by St. Paul’s Hospital, it is currently waiting to be cleared by Health Canada. Dr. Javier expects the approval to come through in March of 2019. While waiting, he is screening potential patients and donors to see who is a good candidate.

If this new technique works, it would mean that many people living with CRS would be going back to breathing smoothly. This all sounds very promising but as of now, who nose what will happen!

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