Objective: Chronic middle ear disease is common in Aboriginal children, and may be linked to nasal inflammation and Eustachian tube dysfunction. The pattern of nasal inflammation is unknown. The study reported here was performed to define the role of allergy and infection in causing nasal inflammation in Aboriginal children with chronic middle ear disease.
Methodology: Thirty-one Aboriginal children aged between 3 and 7 years underwent clinical assessment, audiometry and allergy skin tests. Nasal swabs for bacterial culture and cytology were performed during the winter and again in spring to identify any seasonal variation. A randomized trial of nasal beclomethasone for 8 weeks was conducted in children with abnormal tympanometry to identify the effect of therapy upon nasal cytology.
Results: Twenty-six of the 31 children had abnormal tympanograms. Average hearing levels were reduced in nine children. Pathogenic organisms were isolated from most children: Streptococcus pneumoniae (82%), Haemophilus influenzae (79%), Moraxella catarrhalis (39%) and Staphylococcus aureus (29%). Eight of the 31 children (26%) were atopic. Nasal cytology disclosed a marked neutrophil infiltrate (80% of cells) during the winter, which fell significantly in spring to 52% of cells. Only two subjects had nasal eosinophilia of >10%. There was no effect of beclomethasone on nasal cytology.
Conclusions: Chronic ear disease in Aboriginal children is associated with nasal inflammation, neutrophil infiltration and the presence of bacteria. These features suggest respiratory infection as the main cause of chronic nasal inflammation in Aboriginal children with middle ear disease. There is a seasonal variation in the severity of the nasal infiltrate, consistent with increased infections during winter. Despite a high prevalence of atopy, allergic nasal disease was uncommon.