• Heinemann
• Höfler
• Kargl
• Kwapiszewska
• Leithner
• Marsche
• Marsh
Moissl-Eichinger ⏩
• Olschewski A
• Olschewski H
• Strobl
• Sturm
• Tomazic

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The RESPImmun Faculty


The role of the microbiome in chronic rhinosinusitis and sinubronchial syndrome

Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of Graz, Auenbruggerplatz 15, A-8036 Graz; phone: +43-316-385 72808, fax: +43-316-385 13062,  e-mail
websites: [RESPImmun] [MUG]
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Christine Moissl-Eichinger is a microbiologist focusing on the microbiome and its interplay with the human body and the environment. Her specific expertise is the analysis of the archaeome, as well as the (living) microbiome in low-biomass or challenging microbial environments, such as the respiratory tract. In recent studies, she enlightened the presence of archaea in human lung, as well as the interplay of the microbiome with throat cancer and anosmia. Her goal is to find microbial solutions to human disease. Within RESPImmun she closely collaborates with Peter Valentin Tomazic (CRS), Herbert Strobl (immune cells), Eva Sturm (allergic asthma) and Horst Olschewski (patient samples).


Project 2: The role of the microbiome in chronic rhinosinusitis and sinubronchial syndrome
Co-PI: Vasile Foris


The respiratory tract harbors numerous microorganisms, and in particular the lung, originally considered to be largely sterile, contains an endogenous microbial community. The microbiome in the respiratory tract varies depending on e. g. sampled region, the oxygen tension, or immune state. Asthma and lung cancer, amongst other lung diseases, correlate with the relative abundance of certain bacterial and archaeal taxa. As microbiome profiles correlate with disease status, such as in patients' salivary samples with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, or mirror the olfactory capacity in normosmic, hyposmic and anosmic patients, the microorganisms are considered as a potent target for future therapeutic approaches. Chronic rhinosinositis (CRS) is an inflammatory disease of the nose and paranasal sinuses affecting up to 11–12 % of the human population in developed countries. The sinubronchial syndrome, however, is known as one of the most severe forms of the second form, which appears as a combination of sinusitis and resulting lower respiratory tract symptoms such as bronchitis or asthma. Despite the lack of knowledge with respect to the interplay of the microbiome and the sinubronchial syndrome, it has been shown that CRS is accompanied by a higher level of anaerobic microorganisms, including E. coli, a typical gut-associated microbe.

Hypothesis and objectives

We hypothesize that chronic rhinosinusitis and the sinubronchial syndrome is associated with a dysbiotic microbiome (bacterial and archaeal) profile and function in the respiratory tract and that the gastrointestinal tract could serve as a potential source of infection (gut-lung axis). In this project, we will analyze the microbial community and its function (metatranscriptome) from upper to lower respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. In order to decipher the interplay of the microbiome and the human body, we will analyze the mucus and BAL with respect to the proteome / metabolome. We will correlate our findings with the clinical information derived from the samples and corresponding patients in order to obtain insights into the diversity, activity, function, dispersal and distribution of archaea and bacteria in CRS patients, the CRS sub-groups (with / without polyps) and patients with sinubronchial syndrome.


We will use different methods in state-of-the-art microbiome research, including 16S rRNA gene-based next-generation sequencing, propidium monoazide treatment of the samples (to distinguish living and dead cells), fluorescence in situ hybridization to visualize the microorganisms and metagenomics / metatranscriptomics, as well as metabolomics/proteomics. The PhD student will specifically be trained in Archaea microbiology, and learn to detect and visualize these microorganisms. In year 1, the student will be involved in sampling and sampling processing (amplicon-sequencing, PMA treatment, FISH). In year 2 – 3, the student will be trained to interpret the microbiome data and to perform profound statistical analyses of the microbiome and clinical data. Proteomics and metagenomics / -transcriptomics will be performed. Year 4 will be dedicated to data analysis and publication of the results.

Input from collaborations within the RESPImmun programme