Ear infections and the role of probiotics

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CHILDREN’S HEALTH

Ear infections and the role of probiotics

BY TANYA KWIEZ May 21, 2021

Probiotics are being studied as a new way of potentially preventing middle ear infections in children.

Ear infections in children

Ear infections are a common infection in children and occur most frequently between 6-18 months of age. The most common type of ear infection is otitis media, an infection of the air-filled space that sits behind the ear drum called the middle ear.

Otitis media is also the main reason for children to visit a doctor and also to be prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, the number of infections remain high in Australia, with Indigenous children suffering from the greatest numbers of cases. In fact, Australian Indigenous children have the highest rates of otitis media and burst ear drums in the world.

There is also growing concern about the use of long-term antibiotics being used in treating such infections that occur so often in child populations (4). However, if left untreated, persistent otitis media can lead to hearing loss and must be adequately addressed.

The human microbiome

Just as the gut has a community of microorganisms living in it, so do many parts of the human body including the ears, nose, and throat. These communities are all connected to each other, and a healthy gut microbiome can help to create more beneficial communities of bacteria in the ears, nose, and throat.

The presence of beneficial bacteria plays an important role in preventing infections all over the body by enhancing the immune system and acting as a barrier against harmful microorganisms which can cause infection.

Probiotics may help to prevent ear infections

Probiotics are therefore being studied as a new way of potentially preventing middle ear infections in children.

Lactobacillus rhamnosusGG is a specific probiotic strain that has already been shown to help reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections in children, such as the common cold, and reduce the need for antibiotics (4).

Now, research is also demonstrating that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG may have the ability to reduce the frequency of middle ear infections, most likely due to an ability to boost the immune system and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria known to cause ear infections (4).

Use strain specific probiotics

Probiotics may therefore provide parents and carers with an effective, low-risk and cost-effective way to enhance their child’s immunity and prevent the risk of common infections, such as the common cold and middle ear infections (1).

The research suggests that only specific strains can support these infections successfully and encourage the use of probiotics that contain the specific strains studied for these effects.

REFERENCES

1. Liu S, Hu P, Du X.et al.Lactobacillus rhamnosusGG supplementation for preventing respiratory infections in children:A Meta-analysis of Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trials, Indian Pediatr. 2003;50;377–381. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13312-013-0123-z
2. Niittynen L, Pitkäranta A & Korpela R, Probiotics and otitis media in children. Inter J Pediatr Otor. 2012;76(4);465-470, ISSN 0165-5876, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijporl.2012.01.011.
3. Coleman A & Cervin A, Probiotics in the treatment of otitis media. The past, the present and the future, Inter J of Pediatr Otor. 2019;116;135-140, ISSN 0165-5876, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.10.023.
4. Gasta MG, Gossard CM, Williamson CB, et al. Probiotics and Disease: A Comprehensive Summary-Part 5, Respiratory Conditions of the Ears, Nose,and Throat.Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017;16(3);28-40.
5. Durack J, Kimes N.E, Lin D.L.et al.Delayed gut microbiota developmentin high-risk for asthma infants is temporarily modifiable byLactobacillussupplementation.Nat Commun. 2018;707, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03157-4
6. Kumpu M, et al. The use of the probioticLactobacillus rhamnosusGG and viral findings in the nasopharynx of children attending day care, Med Virol. 2013;85(9);1632-1638.

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