Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the susceptibility of organisms causing otitis externa (OE) to the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia, or tea tree oil (TTO).
Methods: Fifty-seven swabs were taken from the ears of 52 patients with OE for culture and sensitivity. A broth microdilution method was used to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of TTO for each organism.
Results: In 51 percent of the swabs taken, pathogenic organisms were cultured. Of these cultures 71 percent, both bacteria and yeast, were susceptible to TTO 2 percent or less. The only organism showing resistance to TTO was Pseudomonas aeruginosa; however 25 percent of these bacteria were sensitive.
Conclusion: Tea tree oil may have a role to play in the treatment of OE. However, more work needs to be done to enhance the anti-pseudomonal effect and to assess ototoxicity.