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Vaccine May Someday Thwart Ear Infections

Tested on animals, liquid would be administered externally

THURSDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers have developed a pain-free vaccination that might thwart ear infections in children.

Antibiotics are typically used to treat ear infections, and surgery is often recommended for children with recurrent ear infections.

"The emergence of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and the invasive nature of the surgical procedure raise the need to develop different ways to treat or, preferably, prevent ear infection," Lauren Bakaletz, director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis in the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, said in a news release from the hospital.

She and her colleagues say a liquid that's rubbed on the ears can prevent ear infections. In testing on chinchillas, they said, it was highly effective. The vaccine works by prompting an immune response that reduces or eliminates NTHI, one of the bacteria commonly responsible for ear infections.

"These studies lay the foundation for an effective, yet simple, inexpensive and potentially transformative way to deliver vaccines," Bakaletz said. "It's our hope that the method of applying the vaccine to the skin will allow us to distribute it to some of the poorest children in the world."

Ear infection, or otitis media, is the most frequently diagnosed illness in U.S. children younger than 15 and the leading cause of emergency room visits by children, according to background information in the news release. More than 80 percent of children experience at least one ear infection before age 3.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about ear infection.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, June 30, 2009

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