Good bacteria prevent repeat ear infections

February 6, 2001 in Healthy Eating

Good bacteria prevent repeat ear infections

An experimental therapy that replenishes "good" bacteria appears to reduce recurrences and complications of a common childhood ear infection, otitis media.

Each year millions of children receive antibiotics for otitis media, but the infection often reappears after treatment. One possible reason that otitis media is so hard to eliminate is that the antibiotics used to treat it strike a wide swath, killing not only infection-causing bacteria, but also helpful bacteria that form a part of the body's natural defence system. Therapies that boost helpful bacteria may not only keep otitis media at bay, but also prevent harmful bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics by reducing the need for the drugs.

The study, conducted by Swedish researchers and just published in the British Medical Journal, involved 130 children aged 6 months to 6 years who had a history of recurrent ear infections. All of the children received a 10-day course of antibiotics to treat the infection. After completing the antibiotic treatment, half of the children received a nasal spray containing beneficial bacteria for 10 days. About two months later, these children received another 10-day course of the spray. The remaining children received two cycles of a placebo spray that did not contain any bacteria.

Ear infection was significantly less likely to recur in children treated with the bacterial spray, the report indicates. Forty-two percent of these children did not develop another ear infection during the three-month study, compared with just 22% of children who received the placebo spray.

The researchers noted that further testing needs to be performed before the spray can be considered for approval. The researchers, who developed the spray used in the study, have applied for patents in several countries.

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