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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2010 Jul;16(7):1031-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02928.x. Epub 2009 Nov 6.

The prevalence of middle ear pathogens in the outer ear canal and the nasopharyngeal cavity of healthy young adults.

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Laboratory Bacteriology Research, University Hospital Ghent, Gent, Belgium.


Culturing middle ear fluid samples from children with chronic otitis media with effusion (OME) using standard techniques results in the isolation of bacterial species in approximately 30-50% of the cases. Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Moraxella catarrhalis, the classic middle ear pathogens of acute otitis media, are involved but, recently, several studies suggested Alloiococcus otitidis as an additional pathogen. In the present study, we used species-specific PCRs to establish the prevalence, in both the nasopharyngeal cavity and the outer ear, of H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis, S. pneumoniae and A. otitidis. The study group consisted of 70 healthy volunteers (aged 19-22 years). The results indicate a high prevalence (>80%) of A. otitidis in the outer ear in contrast to its absence in the nasopharynx. H. influenzae was found in both the outer ear and the nasopharynx (6% and 14%, respectively), whereas S. pneumoniae and M. catarrhalis were found only in the nasopharynx (9% and 34%, respectively).A. otitidis, described as a fastidious organism, were able to be cultured using an optimized culture protocol, with prolonged incubation, which allowed the isolation of A. otitidis in five of the nine PCR-positive samples out of the total of ten samples tested. Given the absence of the outer ear inhabitant A. otitidis from the nasopharynx, its role in the aetiology of OME remains ambiguous because middle ear infecting organisms are considered to invade the middle ear from the nasopharynx through the Eustachian tube.

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