Battling the Superbugs That Cause Middle Ear Infections


Doc uses hypodermic to stave off awful As every parent knows, before age two, most children come down with a middle ear infection. By age three, many suffer from three or more infections.

Bacteria account for most of the acute middle ear infections in children during their early years, and cause severe inflammation of the sinuses in both children and young adults. Some infections go away without treatment, but in most cases, quick use of antibiotics can ease a child's suffering and reduce the chance of permanent damage to the ear.

Antibiotics are medicine's last stand against the growing onslaught of bacteria in their attack on the body. But each year, more and more bacteria are building up an immunity to an increasing number of antibiotics, seriously limiting the ability of the medical community to fight disease.

Part of the problem is that patients don't correctly use the antibiotics their doctors prescribe.

"When some patients start feeling better, they quit using the antibiotics before their full course of treatment has ended. When they do, they fail to kill all the bacteria in their systems," said Dr. Jeffrey J. Collins, senior clinical program director at Glaxo Wellcome Inc., the nation's leading pharmaceutical research company. "The bugs grow stronger and build up resistance to the medicine, causing some germs to mutate over time into '‘super bugs' capable of resisting the killing power of antibiotics."

Scientists at pharmaceutical research companies like Glaxo Wellcome Inc. have searched for new antibiotics for many years, but on the heels of each new discovery come new strains of resistant bacteria.

In recent years, however, researchers have begun to try new methods to fight bacterial resistance, such as reducing the length of time a patient uses antibiotics to fight off infection.

At Glaxo Wellcome, for example, researchers are trying to reduce the length of drug treatment. They hope this approach will not only save patients money, but also make the medicine easier to take and decrease bacterial resistance.

"Reducing the length of time patients are exposed to antibiotics could reduce the appearance of bacteria that resist the effect of commonly used antibiotics," said Dr. Collins.

Collins said some studies have demonstrated that short-course therapy with certain medicines is also effective in treating other respiratory tract infections, particularly acute bronchitis in adults.

Scientists like Collins are continuing their search for more ways to eradicate bacteria before new and stronger strains develop. For example, researchers are working to discover new types of antibiotics that have a broad range of action against bacteria, including resistant organisms, that cause many types of community-acquired infections. But until that happens, doctors and patients alike must exercise the prudent use of current antibiotics that fight the deadly microbes.

If you or your child are prescribed an antibiotic by the doctor, make sure you understand and follow the full treatment schedule. That way you can do your part to slow down the appearance of drug-resistant strains of bacteria. And it's the right thing to do for your own health.(NAPSI)


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