Meningitis vaccine stops ear infections

A vaccine for meningitis and pneumonia also prevents many ear infections and the complications that they cause, a study shows.

Scientists scanned the medical records of roughly 150,000 children in Tennessee and 27,000 in New York, noting all immunizations received and the number of ear infections acquired by age 2. The team then compared children born before the vaccine against meningitis and pneumonia became available in 2000 with those born afterward. Three-fourths of the latter group received the vaccine in the first year of life.

In Tennessee and New York, children born after 2000 had 17 and 28 percent, respectively, fewer ear infections by age 2 than did their counterparts who were born before the vaccine was available, the researchers report in the April Pediatrics.

Children born after 2000 were also less likely to require surgical insertion of tubes for drainage of chronically infected middle ears, says study coauthor Katherine A. Poehling, a pediatrician at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The vaccine, marketed as Prevnar by its maker Wyeth of Madison, N.J., fights seven strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Strains of that microbe cause about one-third of middle ear infections, Poehling says.

An earlier study had shown that a different vaccine used in Europe against meningitis and pneumonia also prevented many ear infections (SN: 3/11/06, p. 149: Ear Protection: Combo vaccine prevents some infections).

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