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Agulefo, N T C MD
Research targets bacteria causing kids' ear infections
Date : - 21/05/2012
New research led from Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital is helping combat widespread childhood ear infections by pinpointing the bacteria responsible for acute middle ear disease in children in New Zealand.

Paediatric Otolaryngologist at the hospital, Dr Nikki Mills, who is leading the research, says the study is using advanced molecular techniques to identify and study the actual bacteria causing the disease in New Zealand, as opposed to relying on overseas research. Her study will also provide a basis for measuring the impact of vaccination on the types of bacteria causing ear infections.

Dr Mills says, "New Zealand children deserve to have treatment based on local information. Until now, decisions on treating acute middle ear disease have been based on old data or data from other countries, particularly Australia and Europe.

"This study is the first of its kind in New Zealand in nearly 20 years, and supported by more modern research techniques, it will help doctors make antibiotic treatment decisions based on real life factors.

"As a result of the research, we will also have better information for making recommendations on childhood immunisation, which help prevent ear infections."

As well as identifying the main causes of childhood ear disease in New Zealand, the study examined regional variations to confirm the suitability of treatment nationally.

"Now that we have this information we can take steps to determine if we need to be prescribing different antibiotics to treat ear infections in different parts of the country," said Dr Mills.

The study also takes other risk factors into account, such as family history, smoking, over-crowding and medical history.

The study involved more than 460 children in three New Zealand District Health Boards - Auckland, Counties Manukau and Canterbury - with Dr Emma Best (Starship Children's Hospital) and Dr Tony Walls (Christchurch Hospital) working as co-investigators alongside Dr Mills.

All children were under the age of three and were in hospital to undergo grommet insertion (325 children) or another medical procedure under general anaesthetic (137 children). All children in the study were also eligible for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on the National Immunisation Schedule.

Both groups had swabs taken from the back of their noses, and samples of middle ear fluid were also taken from the group of children receiving grommets.

The study will help understanding of the impact of the next-generation pneumococcal vaccine, that was introduced into New Zealand's National Immunisation Schedule in 2011. As well as providing protection against invasive pneumococcal disease, Synflorix is the only vaccine that may cover 80% of bacteria responsible for ear infections.
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