An experimental therapy that replenishes “good” bacteria appears to reduce recurrences and complications of a common childhood ear infection.
Each year millions of children receive antibiotics for a middle ear infection called otitis media, but the infection often reappears after treatment.
One possible reason that otitis media is so hard to eliminate is that the antibiotics used to treat it strike a wide swath, killing not only infection-causing bacteria, or flora, but also helpful bacteria that form a part of the body’s natural defense system.
Therapies that boost helpful bacteria may not only keep otitis media at bay, but also prevent harmful bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics by reducing the need for the drugs. This is a new way of looking at the normal flora as a defense against infections.
The study involved 130 children aged 6 months to 6 years who had a history of recurrent otitis media. All of the children received a 10-day course of antibiotics to treat the infection.
After completing the antibiotic treatment, half of the children received a nasal spray containing beneficial bacteria (alpha-streptococci) for 10 days. About 2 months later, these children received another 10-day course of the spray. The remaining children received two cycles of a placebo spray that did not contain any bacteria.
Otitis media was significantly less likely to recur in children treated with the bacterial spray, the report indicates. Fortytwo percent of these children did not develop another ear infection during the 3-month study, compared with just 22% of children who received the placebo spray.
The bacterial spray also appeared to reduce cases of otitis media that cause secretions. The secretions occurred in 31% of the bacterial spray group, compared with 56% of other children.
British Medical Journal January 27, 2001;322:210-212
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #08.
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