October 6, 2006

Pediatric vaccine also fights ear infections: study

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Marie Griffin, M.D.

Pediatric vaccine also fights ear infections: study

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department have found that a vaccine developed to protect against serious bacterial infections also reduces painful ear infections in infants and toddlers.

Preventive Medicine investigators Marie Griffin, M.D., M.P.H., Carlos Grijalva, M.D., and colleagues worked with investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review 10 years of national data.

Their study was published in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.

They found that since the introduction in 2000 of Prevnar, a vaccine that fights serious bacterial infections including meningitis and bloodstream infections, the number of doctor visits for ear infections in children younger than age 2 fell 20 percent — a bit of a surprise because earlier studies while applying for FDA approval showed a more modest 9 percent.

Griffin said the unexpected finding are important, since ear infection, or otitis media, is the most common cause of doctor visits for young children, leading to more than 24 million visits a year.

“Ear infections account for millions of dollars in office visits to health care providers, antibiotic prescriptions and time lost for working parents who must stay at home with their children,” said Griffin.

“Since ear infections are very common, a 20 percent decline represents a huge impact.”

The vaccine fights infections caused by the pneumococcal bacteria, which include pneumonia and ear infections. Researchers did not find a drop in doctor visits for overall cases of pneumonia, one of the leading causes of death from infection in American children between ages 1 and 4.

Other Vanderbilt investigators who participated in this study include Katherine Poehling, M.D., M.P.H., Kathryn Edwards, M.D., and Yuwei Zhu, M.D.