The bovine paranasal sinuses are a group of complex cavernous air-filled spaces, lined by respiratory epithelium, the exact function of which is unclear. While lesions affecting these sinuses are occasionally reported in cattle, their microbial flora has not been defined. Furthermore, given that the various bacterial and viral pathogens causing bovine respiratory disease (BRD) persist within herds, we speculated that the paranasal sinuses may serve as a refuge for such infectious agents. The paranasal sinuses of clinically normal cattle (n = 99) and of cattle submitted for post-mortem examination (PME: n = 34) were examined by microbial culture, PCR and serology to include bacterial and viral pathogens typically associated with BRD: Mycoplasma bovis, Histophilus somni, Mannheimia haemolytica and Pasteurella multocida, bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV) and bovine parainfluenza-3 virus (BPIV-3). Overall, the paranasal sinuses were either predominantly sterile or did not contain detectable microbes (83.5%: 94.9% of clinically normal and 50.0% of cattle submitted for PME). Bacteria, including BRD causing pathogens, were identified in relatively small numbers of cattle (<10%). While serology indicated widespread exposure of both clinically normal and cattle submitted for PME to BPIV-3 and BRSV (seroprevalences of 91.6% and 84.7%, respectively), PCR identified BPIV-3 in only one animal. To further explore these findings we investigated the potential role of the antimicrobial molecule nitric oxide (NO) within paranasal sinus epithelium using immunohistochemistry. Expression of the enzyme responsible for NO synthesis, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), was detected to varying degrees in 76.5% of a sub-sample of animals suggesting production of this compound plays a similar protective role in the bovine sinus as it does in humans.
Animal & Bioscience