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Treatment with bacteria can protect children from recurrent ear infections


Effect of recolonisation with "interfering" alpha-streptococci on recurrences of acute and secretory otitis media in children: randomised placebo controlled trial

Selected bacteria with the ability to inhibit the growth of common pathogens can be used to protect children who are prone to acute otitis media (ear infection) and could also help reduce antibiotic use, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Sweden identified 108 children prone to acute otitis media aged between 6 months and 6 years. Children were given antibiotic treatment twice daily for 10 days. This was followed by either alpha-streptococcal or placebo solution sprayed into the nose for a further 10 days. After 60 days, the same spray was started for another 10 days. At 3 months, 22 children (42%) given the streptococcal spray were healthy and free of infection compared with only 12 (22%) of those given placebo. This difference was also shown for recurrences of secretory otitis media, often seen as a complication of acute otitis media, add the authors.

Ironically, repeated courses of antibiotics may be contributing to recurrent infections in these children, as most antibiotics affect the normal bacteria that form part of the body's natural defence, explain the authors. Treatment with streptococcal bacteria could help reduce antibiotic consumption in susceptible children, they conclude.



Kristian Roos, Associate Professor, Ear, Nose and Throat Department, Lundby Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden Email:

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