Acute otitis media, inflammation of the middle ear, is the most common bacterial infection in children and results in a fluid build-up behind the ear drum. Chronic otitis media with effusion, also known as ‘glue ear’, can be a sequel to this infection and is the most common cause of long term hearing impairment in children.
We have identified and characterised several mouse models of chronic otitis media that have enabled investigation of the genetic and immune signalling mechanisms relevant to development of the disease.
We conduct infection studies in mouse models of otitis media to look at the interaction between the bacteria and infected host, in order to better understand how the infection develops and how disease may be remedied.
Currently, chronic otitis media is treated surgically by inserting a small tube known as a grommet into the ear to drain the fluid, this however is not always effective and infection can recur at a later date. Mouse models provide a means to test improved strategies to diminish otitis media by specifically targeting the inflamed conditions or infecting bacteria in the middle ear. For example, current routine treatment for otitis media is a course of antibiotics – overuse of oral antibiotics greatly increases the risk that bacteria will become resistant. By contrast, an antimicrobial applied directly to the ear will target only the key area, not the whole body.
We are also looking to help develop a vaccine, so children particularly at risk of otitis media could be immunised against the disease.