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Novel Therapy Uses Bacteria to Protect Children From Ear Infections

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The premise of the study is that good bacteria can slow down the growth of the bacteria that commonly cause ear infections, thus protecting against future infections.

To support their theory, Roos and her research team performed a study including more than 100 children aged 6 months to 6 years, all prone to ear infections. Children were given antibiotic treatment for 10 days, and then received either a good bacteria solution or placebo solution sprayed into the nose for an additional 10 days. After two months, they were given the same spray for another 10 days.

At three months, investigators found that nearly half of the children who were given the bacteria spray were healthy, compared with about one-fourth of the children who received the placebo spray.

If approved, the spray could have positive implications for both children and parents, according to Kenneth L. Wible, MD, chief of the section of general pediatrics at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinic in Kansas City, Mo. "It may mean that some children will be able to avoid unnecessary antibiotic exposure, and we may have a way of dealing with [ear infections] without surgery," he tells WebMD. "It can also mean a lot less suffering, missed days of school, and missed days of work for the parent.

"We prescribe too many antibiotics in this country," Wible says. "But sometimes it's because we have no alternative treatment. One of the nice things about this study is that it offers a treatment that doesn't involve antibiotics."

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD, April 2002

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