EAR INFECTIONS: New Vaccine Prevents 7% of Cases in Study
A new vaccine against pediatric ear infections that prevented 7% of cases in a controlled study could eliminate 2 million doctor visits a year at savings of nearly $500 million, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A study of 38,000 children treated at 23 Kaiser Permanente clinics in Northern California over a three-year period found that "children who received the vaccine were 20.3% less likely to require surgery" to insert ear tubes and "22.8% less likely to fall victim to multiple infections, compared with a control group of youngsters" (Hall, 5/4). Scripps-McClatchey/Contra Costa Times reports, "Once the vaccine is widely used, it should vastly curb the overuse of antibiotics, which has led to strains of bacteria resistant to some treatments." The vaccine requires shots at two, four and six months of age, and a booster shot during children's second year (Griffith, 5/4). The vaccine, manufactured by American Home Products Corp.'s Wyeth Lederle Vaccines, has been granted "fast-track" approval status by the FDA, and could "be incorporated into routine childhood immunization programs within a year." The study was to be presented yesterday by Kaiser's Dr. Steven Black and colleagues at a national meeting of pediatric disease specialists in San Francisco (Chronicle, 5/4). The AP/Nando Times reports that up to 95% of U.S. children have at least one middle ear infection by the age of six. About 40% of pediatric ear infections are caused by pneumococcus bacteria, the target of the vaccine (Bowman, 5/4).
Just in Time?
The need for an effective alternative to antibiotics is underscored in this week's U.S. News & World Report: The cover story focuses on overprescription and the growing threat of antibiotic- resistant bacteria.