The study in this week's British Medical Journal shows that bacteria with the ability to inhibit the growth of the pathogens responsible for ear infections can be used successfully and may help reduce the use of antibiotics.
Acute Otitis Media is one of the most common bacterial infections in young children, and is often treated with large amounts of antibiotics. It is caused by the spread of Streptococcus pneumoniae and other bacteria from the throat into the middle ear cavity.
Swedish medical experts have successfully treated children with chronic ear infection - ironically by infecting them with bacteria.Naturally occurring bacteria, such as alpha steptococci,protect the body from such infections. However children who get a lot of ear infections have been found to have a lower than normal amount of this bacteria.
The research studied 130 children with recurrent Otitis Media. Firstly, all the children were treated with antibiotics for 10 days, then divided into two groups. One group was given a nasal spray containing live growth-inhibiting bacteria, the other given a placebo.
After three months followup, researchers found that 42 per cent of children given the bacteria spray had no recurrence of infection, compared with only 22 per cent of those given the placebo.The researchers recolonised the children with naturally occurring bacteria to help boost the bodies defence system.
The authors say that using alpha streptococci may help offset antibiotic resistance among children prone to this type of ear infection.Dr Henley Harrison who heads the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at Sydney Children's Hospital said it was a novel approach with impressive results.