An experimental therapy that replenishes "good"
to reduce recurrences and complications of a common childhood ear infection.
Each year millions of children receive antibiotics
for a middle ear infection called 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,
only infection-causing bacteria, or flora,
but also helpful bacteria
that form a part of the body's natural defense 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. This is a new way of looking at the normal flora as
a defense against infections.
The study involved 130 children aged 6 months to 6
years who had a history of recurrent otitis media. 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 (alpha-streptococci)
for 10 days. About 2 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.
Otitis media 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 3-month study, compared with just 22%
of children who received the placebo spray.
The bacterial spray also appeared to reduce cases
of otitis media that cause secretions. The secretions occurred in 31%
of the bacterial spray group, compared with 56% of other children.
British Medical Journal
January 27, 2001;322:210-212