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Lancet Infect Dis. 2010 Mar;10(3):195-203. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(10)70012-8.

Otitis media and its consequences: beyond the earache.

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  • 1UniversitĂ© Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.


An international group of multidisciplinary experts on middle-ear and paediatric infections met to explore where consensus exists on the management of acute otitis media. After informal discussions among several specialists of paediatric infectious disease, the group was expanded to include a larger spectrum of professionals with complementary expertise in middle-ear disease. Acute otitis media is a very common bacterial infection in children worldwide, leading to excessive antibiotic consumption in children in most countries and to a substantial burden of deafness and suppurative complications in developing countries. The group attempted to move beyond the existing controversies surrounding guidelines on acute otitis media, and to propose to clinicians and public health officials their views on the actions needed to be taken to reduce the disease burden caused by acute otitis media and the microbial antibiotic resistance from the resulting use of antibiotics. Definition of acute otitis media and diagnostic accuracy are crucial steps to identify children who will potentially benefit from treatment with antibiotics and to eliminate unnecessary prescribing. Although the group agreed that antibiotics are distributed indiscriminately, even to children who do not seem to have the disease, no consensus could be reached on whether antibiotics should be given to all appropriately diagnosed children, reflecting the wide range of practices and lack of convincing evidence from observational studies. The major unanimous concern was an urgent need to reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics to prevent further increases in antibiotic resistance. Prevention of acute otitis media with existing and future viral and bacterial vaccines seems the most promising approach to affect disease burden and consequences, both in developed and developing countries.

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