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J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 Aug;38(4):483-94.

Toward the development of evidence-based guidelines for the management of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus otitis.

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  • 1Division of Otolaryngology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia.



(1) To determine the causative bacteriology of discharging ears in a case series from a tertiary/quaternary academic centre serving an urban population and from a review of the literature and (2) to develop treatment guidelines for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) otorrhea based on the best available evidence.


A retrospective analysis of all "ear" cultures from the microbiology laboratory at St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, was performed to ascertain a qualitative analysis on the susceptibility and bacteriology data. A systematic review of the literature was performed for all studies examining the bacteriology, susceptibility, and treatment for any MRSA infection producing otorrhea.


Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) were present in 39.7% and 13.5%, respectively, of ear cultures obtained at our institution versus 9.9 to 54.1% and 25.0 to 48.6% in identified studies in the literature. Methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) was present more frequently than MRSA (31.2% vs 8.5% at our institution; 16.9% vs 6.9% in the literature). MRSA isolates were often resistant to gentamicin (14.8%) and ciprofloxacin (7.7%) but susceptible to trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) (85.3%) and fusidic acid (96.3%), suggesting a preponderance of the "community strain" of MRSA.


The susceptibility of MRSA to antibiotics in commonly used otic drops (ie, gentamicin and ciprofloxacin) is low. Based on the available data, we suggest an evidence-based approach to the management of MRSA otorrhea considering whether the strain is community or hospital acquired and whether the tympanic membrane is intact.

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