Antibiotics may not be enough to rid you of your terrible nerve-shattering earaches. A new study by Finnish researchers shows that most ear infections host both bacteria and viruses, contrary to the earlier belief of them being bacterial diseases only.
Ear infections are among the most common diseases seen in pediatric practice, and are usually treated with antibiotics, for they are considered to be bacterial diseases.
But the new study by researchers at the Turku University Hospital provides evidence that viruses are found in many ear infection cases, and may complicate treatment.
For the study, the researchers used a variety of laboratory techniques to identify the pathogen that caused ear infections, known clinically as acute otitis media (AOM), in 79 young children.
They found that bacteria responsible for the disease in 92 percent of the cases, viruses in 70 percent, and both bacteria and viruses in 66 percent.
“The major finding of the study is that acute otitis media is a coinfection of bacteria and viruses in the great majority of children. This is actually logical since acute otitis media is virtually always connected to viral respiratory infection,” said Dr. Aino Ruohola, lead author of the study.
Antibiotics used for treatment of AOM caused by the bacteria are ineffective on the viruses, and that is why the standard treatment for AOM through antibiotics can be partially effective in the majority of cases.
“Based on this and previous research, it is possible that viruses cause a considerable proportion of clinical treatment failures. Thus, in these cases a new antibiotic is not necessarily the best choice although bacteria resistant to common antibiotics are wide-spread,” said Dr. Ruohola.
The researchers say that the fact that many cases of AOM recover spontaneously without antibiotic treatment has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians to recommend withholding antibiotic treatment in mild AOM cases.