Friday, November 22, 2013

New Study Helps Explain Chronic Ear and Respiratory Infections

Are you or your child plagued with chronic ear infections or respiratory illnesses? A team from the research institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital says they may have some answers. 

The scientists have figured out how a bacterium that causes ear and respiratory illnesses is able to elude immune detection in the middle ear. 

“Infections caused by nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHI) are chronic and recurrent similar to other bacterial infections that are difficult to treat,”  says Dr. Sheryl Justice. “Findings from our studies help to explain reasons for that.”

Humans are the only known hosts for Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, a family comprised of many different strains, the most well-known of which is type b, or Hib. Once the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children under age 5, Hib is largely under control today, thanks to a Hib vaccine that was introduced in 1985. Now, NTHI is responsible for the majority of invasive H. influenzae infections in all age groups.

At any given time, NTHI is present in the nose and mouth in about 50 percent of young children, an environment rich in nutrients such as heme-iron, which all bacteria need to survive. Still, the bacterium leads to few if any serious symptoms when confined to this nasopharynx region. It isn’t until NTHI moves into the lungs and middle ear—where heme-iron is sequestered as part of the body’s immune response—that the bacterium causes the most problems. Therein lay the mystery that the researchers were trying to solve: Why did NTHI have better success in a part of the body that was more hostile to its existence?

“Our data support a paradox, wherein mechanisms that are thought to clear the bacteria at these sites actually may be promoting increased survival of bacteria and contributing to disease severity,” says Dr. Mason. 

The team has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further their work.

For more stories on health, respiratory care and improving your indoor air quality visit or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

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