Treatment of acute otitis media - Challenges in the era of antibiotic resistance

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The last decade is characterized by the increase in antibiotic resistance among respiratory bacterial pathogens in the presence of only modest progress in the development of new antibacterial agents to overcome this resistance. A series of recent studies show clearly that the increased resistance among the main AOM pathogens (namely Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae) is associated with a dramatic decrease in bacteriologic response to antibiotic treatment, which in turn has an impact on clinical response. Thus, the individual patient is affected by the increasing antibiotic resistance. Moreover, the society as a whole is now also affected because the carriage and spread of antibiotic resistant AOM pathogens is remarkably impacted by antibiotic treatment. New studies show the remarkable ability of antibiotics to rapidly promote nasopharyngeal carriage and spread of antibiotic-resistant AOM pathogens. In these studies, the increase in carriage of antibiotic resistant S. pneumoniae is shown already after 3-4 days from initiation of antibiotic treatment and may last for weeks to months after treatment. Children carrying antibiotic-resistant organisms transmit those organisms to their family and to their day care centers and thus a vicious cycle is created in which increased antibiotic resistance with decreased response leads to increased antibiotic use, which in turn leads to further increase in resistance. New antibiotics are not likely to improve this situation. It is clear that the challenge in the next decade is to prevent AOM rather than to treat it. Efforts to prevent AOM include improved environmental factors, immunization with bacterial and viral vaccines and some creative measures such as prevention of colonization and attachment to epithelium of AOM pathogens. Whether these efforts will prove successful or, even if successful, will only modify the clinical and bacteriologic picture presenting new challenges, only time will tell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S9-S16
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 8 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute otitis media
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Carriage
  • Pathogens


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