Scientists in the UK have identified the gene that may be responsible for glue ear in kids. It is the inflammation of the middle ear and is the major cause of hearing impairment in children. This condition is also known as otitis media.
In UK, 50% of the kids less than one year old are affected by glue ear and 1/3rd of 1-3 years old have recurring bouts. Though the involvement of genes in otitis media was already known, the precise pathways involved were not known.
Professor Steven Brown, and colleagues at the Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit conducted a study on a mouse with hearing loss, which they named Junbo.
This work was published in Public Library of Science.
Otitis media causes recurrent glue ear in some kids. The mouse Junbo showed the same symptoms.
Scientists have quoted the gene responsible for this condition as 'evil' gene in their publication. This gene codes for protein that aids in translation of other DNA code into instructions for the body. In the study, it was found to affect the cells lining the middle ear at the spot of inflammation in the Junbo mouse.
Professor Brown said: "Because the Junbo mouse provides a model of how otitis media affects children I hope that it will help researchers to figure out new ways to tackle this disease.
"Five million school days are missed every year due to otitis media."
Dr Mark Downs of The Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People said: "This is a very exciting development.
"Further studies would need to be carried out to ascertain whether the gene is a common cause of glue ear in children, but it does yet again highlight the important role genetic factors play in many forms of hear
In otitis media, infections causing sore throats, colds, or other breathing troubles spread to the middle ear and results in inflammation. Kids are more prone to otitis media because of under developed immune system, small size of the passage connecting the ear to throat. Fluid collection in this passage causes infection. The fluid becomes thicker and glue-like causing severe ear pain. Finally, the fluid pressure can tear the eardrum.
Antibiotics and in some cases surgery and insertion of drainage tubes called grommets, are the treatments.