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Antibiotics Can Ease Kids' Ear Infections, Studies Show
Date:1/13/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Amid the ongoing controversy over routine antibiotic use for children with acute ear infections, two new studies support the practice when stringent diagnostic criteria are met.

Researchers from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and the University of Turku in Finland found antibiotics more effective than a placebo in reducing ear infection severity and duration in toddlers. In both studies, the rate of clinical failure -- defined as persistent signs of acute infection -- was dramatically lower days later among those prescribed amoxicillin-clavulanate (Augmentin) than in children left untreated.

Acute ear infection, known medically as otitis media, is the most frequent bacterial illness diagnosed during early childhood and the most common reason antibiotics are prescribed for children in the United States, according to prior research.

"The study underscores the need to restrict antibiotic treatment to those with certain infection," said Dr. Alejandro Hoberman, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and lead author of one of the studies. "I would say the really important point to understand is that the key to optimal management of acute otitis media is an accurate diagnosis. I do hope our findings . . . will settle the topic."

Hoberman and Dr. Jerome Klein, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said a rash of research in recent decades from Western Europe triggered debate over the necessity of antibiotics by suggesting they initially be withheld from children with ear infections as part of a watchful waiting strategy.

That approach, along with widespread fear over the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, has fueled the treatment controversy, they said. However, the European studies typically didn't enforce strict criteria for diagnosing ear infections, whose sympto
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