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Biofilm Bacteria Linked to Chronic Middle Ear Infections

Findings support avoidance of antibiotics to treat otitis media in children

TUESDAY, July 11 (HealthDay News) -- Recurrent otitis media infections and otitis media with effusion in children are associated with the presence of biofilm bacteria, according to a study in the July 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Garth D. Ehrlich, Ph.D., of the Allegheny-Singer Research Institute in Pittsburgh, and colleagues analyzed middle-ear mucosa specimens from 26 children aged 6 months to 14 years who underwent tympanostomy tube placement to treat otitis media with effusion and otitis media. Confocal laser scanning microscopic images were analyzed for the presence of H. influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Moraxella catarrhalis.

In all, 13 of the 26 children (50 percent) undergoing tympanostomy tube placement had otitis media with effusion, and 20 (77 percent) had recurrent otitis media. Of the 52 ears, 27 (52 percent) had effusions, of which 24 of 24 effusions tested positive using polymerase chain reaction-based diagnostics for one or more otitis media pathogens.

Using generic and pathogen-specific probes, the researchers identified mucosal biofilms on 46 (92 percent) of 50 middle-ear mucosa specimens from children with otitis media with effusion and recurrent otitis media.

"Given that bacteria living in biofilms are metabolically resistant to antibiotics, this study makes a definitive, scientifically based statement against the use of these drugs to treat children with chronic ear infections. It simply does not help the child and increases the risk of breeding more resistant strains of bacteria, " Ehrlich said in a statement.

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