Children who are prone to frequent ear infections may have a high number of potentially infectious bacteria

Children who are prone to frequent ear infections may have a high number of potentially infectious bacteria and a relatively low number of protective bacteria in their noses, according to a study in the June issue of Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Smoking is associated with an increased risk of respiratory tract infections in adults and also with oral colonization by some potentially pathogenic species of bacteria, according to background information in the article. In children, exposure to cigarette smoke is a risk factor for respiratory tract infections, including otitis media (ear infections). This study compared the frequency of potential pathogens (infectious bacteria) and of "interfering" bacteria (potentially protective bacteria) in otitis media-prone (OMP) children and their smoking or non-smoking parents.

Itzhak Brook, M.D., M.Sc. and Alan E. Gober, M.D., of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, D.C., compared potential pathogens and bacteria with interfering capabilities against those organisms cultured from samples taken from the back of the noses of two groups, 20 ear infection-prone children and their non-smoking parents and 20 ear infection-prone children and their smoking parents.

The researchers found 14 potential pathogens in the smoking parents and 17 in their children, compared with three potential pathogens in non-smoking parents and 16 in their children. Bacterial interference against potential pathogens were noted in 58 instances in smoking parents and in 55 instances in their children compared to 129 instances in non-smoking parents and 55 instances in their children.

"A high recovery rate of potential pathogens and a low number of interfering organisms were observed in OMP children," the authors write. "This was not related to their parents' smoking habits. The posterior nasopharynx flora of smoking parents contained more pathogens similar to the ones recovered from OMP children and fewer interfering organisms than non-smoking parents."


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