Until recently, experts have identified bacteria as the major cause of childhood otitis media, or infections of the middle ear. However, a new study suggests that viruses may also play a role in ear infections. Otitis media (literally, "inflammation of the middle ear") strikes over 12 million US children every year, with an estimated annual treatment cost of over $3.5 billion per year.
Researchers report that 41% of the children did have some sort of viral infection in their upper respiratory tract. Still, experts had assumed that viral infection only rarely progresses from respiratory areas -- such as the throat or nasal passages -- into the middle ear.
The authors conclude that more invasive viruses, such as RSV, may "actively invade the middle ear and contribute to the inflammatory process" of ear infection. These findings are "exciting," because they may provide physicians with a whole new method of immunizing children against ear infection. The Finnish experts point out that safe, low-cost vaccines aimed at preventing RSV infection are currently under development.
The New England Journal of Medicine 1999;340:260-264, 312-313.
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
It is interesting to note that viruses are now being appreciated as a major cause of ear infections. It is a sad commentary that traditional medicine is so clueless on how to treat this basic problem. Chronic recurrent ear infections are one of the easiest problems to resolve with simple measures. They are nearly always due to some type of food allergy. Following a proper diet will likely resolve well over 90% of the infections.