Dr Nikki Mills, Paediatric Otolaryngologist (kids ear, nose and throat specialist) is helping combat New Zealand children's middle ear infections with her latest research.
Dr Mills used advanced molecular techniques to identify and study the actual bacteria causing middle ear infections in New Zealand children. Instead of having to rely on old New Zealand information or Australian and European data when prescribing antibiotics doctors will be able to make desisions on 'real life' information. The research also considered the child's medical history, family history, exposure to cigarette smoke and exposure to overcrowding in the household as these have been linked to a higher risk of ear infections.
The results of Dr Mills' research will also contribute to understanding how the pneumococcal immunisation on the National Immunisation Schedule may be hepling to reduce ear infections. It could contribute to recommendations about future immunisations to include on the Schedule.
The pneumococcal vaccine, Synflorix®, is currently on the National Schedule to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease like blood infection and meningitis in children less than 5 years of age. However, there is some evidence that the vaccine reduces ear infections when they are caused by a type of the pneumococcal bacteria the vaccine protects against.
The study involved more than 460 children in three New Zealand District Health Boards – Auckland, Counties Manukau and Canterbury – with Dr Emma Best (Starship Children’s Hospital) and Dr Tony Walls (Christchurch Hospital) working as co-investigators alongside Dr Mills. With their parent's permission children having an operation for grommets, or another medical procedure, under general anaesthetic had swabs from the back of their nose and a sample of middle ear fluid (when they were having grommets inserted) to find out what bacteria were present.