Molecular ‘omics-based approaches are being employed at the Telethon Kids Institute to identify the genetic and environmental factors that predispose children to recurrent ear infections. These include studies of genetic risk factors, analysis of genes being expressed in middle ear fluids, and of the microbial communities (often called the microbiome) found at the back of the nose and in the middle ear. This could contribute to improved preventative and therapeutic strategies to reduce the incidence of this disease.
A clinical trial is investigating whether a cystic fibrosis treatment may be able to dissolve the "glue" in glue ear, reducing the need for antibiotics and further surgery. Dornase alfa – a drug that breaks up thick secretions in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients - has been applied in one ear at the time of grommet insertion and the outcome will be compared with that in the other untreated ear.
In a separate study, researchers are looking at whether a harmless bacterium, Haemophilus haemolyticus, that lives in the respiratory tract can be used to prevent nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae infection, a major cause of ear infections in Australia.