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Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2011 Mar-Apr;25(2):82-8. doi: 10.2500/ajra.2011.25.3594.

Bacterial interference in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review.

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Head and Neck Institute, The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA.



Published definitions of bacterial interference (BI) differ, some focusing on changes in the normal flora and others on changes in subsequent infection. A need for consensus was identified at a roundtable discussion of BI in upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). We conducted a systematic review of the available data to justify a consensus definition of BI specific to URTI as "a dynamic, antagonistic interaction between at least 2 organisms that affects the life cycle of each, changes the microenvironment, and alters the organisms' colonization, invasiveness, and ability to affect the health of the host."


Continued communication among the faculty postroundtable was used to identify and refine the search criteria to (1) in vitro and in vivo studies assessing bacterial URTI, (2) BI evaluated by response to treatment of URTI with antimicrobial agents, and (3) bacterial function in relation to interactions between normal (nonpathogenic) and pathological flora. The criteria were applied to systematic searches of MEDLINE (1950 onward), EMBASE (1974 onward), and the Cochrane Library (2007).


Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria, most focused on children with recurrent infections. Qualitative analysis supports the consensus definition. Interfering organisms affected the life cycle of test pathogens and inhibited their colonization, invasiveness, and health outcomes. Data were insufficient for statistical analysis.


Interactions between interfering organisms and potential pathogens isolated from the same host can alter response to infection and treatment. More studies are needed, particularly in adults, to understand the role of interfering organisms, the influence of antibiotics, and the potential for recolonization posttreatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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