Objectives: Otitis media (OM) is one of the most frequent diseases of childhood, with a minority of children suffering from recurrent acute otitis media (rAOM) or chronic otitis media with effusion (COME), both of which are associated with significant morbidity. We investigated whether the microbiological profiling could be used to differentiate between these two conditions.
Methods: Children up to five years of age, with rAOM (n = 45) or COME (n = 129) and scheduled for tympanostomy tube insertion were enrolled in a prospective study between 2008 and 2009. Middle ear fluids (n = 119) and nasopharyngeal samples (n = 173) were collected during surgery for bacterial culture and PCR analysis to identify Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis, and to detect 15 distinct respiratory viruses.
Results: The occurrence of bacterial and viral pathogens in middle ear fluids did not significantly differ between patients suffering from rAOM and COME. In both patient cohorts, H. influenzae and rhinovirus were the predominant pathogens in the middle ear and nasopharynx. Nasopharyngeal carriage with two or three bacterial pathogens was associated with the presence of bacteria in middle ear fluid (P = 0.04). The great majority of the bacteria isolated from middle ear fluid were genetically identical to nasopharyngeal isolates from the same patient.
Conclusions: Based on these results, we propose that the common perception that rAOM is associated with recurrent episodes of microbiologically mediated AOM, whereas COME is generally a sterile inflammation, should be reconsidered.
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