Researchers Look for Vaccine to Treat Ear Infections

Otitis media is No. 1 cause of childhood hearing loss

TUESDAY, Sept. 26, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are trying to determine why the bacterial ear infection called acute otitis media causes pain, fluid buildup and hearing loss in some children but not in others.

The findings could prove to be an important step in the development of a vaccine for otitis media, the leading cause of childhood hearing loss.

The researchers, from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, will examine the immune systems of 400 2-month-old children divided into three groups with different medical histories: no otitis media infections, few infections, and many infections.

Comparing the immune responses of these three groups of children may provide answers about how some children are naturally protected against otitis media and how to create a vaccine that can replicate that natural protection.

"Otitis media is the number one reason that children receive antibiotic treatment following a doctor's office visit, and we believe it can be prevented through vaccination," project leader Dr. Michael Pichichero, professor of microbiology, immunology, pediatrics, and medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"We expect to explain how some kids naturally protect themselves and to package that protection for those who can't," he said.

By age 3, about 83 percent of U.S. children have had one or more ear infections. In some cases, otitis media causes permanent hearing loss. Even temporary hearing loss caused by otitis media can have serious consequences because it can cause setbacks in normal childhood development.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about otitis media.

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, Sept. 26, 2006
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