Doctors in eastern Bohemia invent vaccine against middle ear infection

Otitis media, or middle ear infection, is an inflammation of the ear chambers that is very common among infants. It often follows a cold and is treated with antibiotics. But doctors at the University of Defence in Hradec Kralove, eastern Bohemia, have now developed a vaccine that helps to significantly reduce the disease. Dr. Roman Prymula heads the epidemiology department at the military faculty and told Dita Asiedu more about the invention:

"Middle ear infection is a very common disease. We can say that it is the major children disease under the age of two. Almost sixty percent of children have this disease but it depends on the particular region. Those are data from the United States; in our country it is relatively lower. The symptoms are sometimes quite common but some are specific. For example pain in the ear, fever, and ear and throat specialists find a red bulk on the eardrum."

If middle ear infection is so common then why has it taken so long for a vaccine to be developed?

"Because it, in reality, is not a dangerous disease. It may affect many people but there are no serious consequences such as death and so on. Originally, this vaccine was invented to cover invasive diseases and this was a side effect. A few years ago, we decided to try it for middle ear infection because the pathogens are relatively similar and it was successful."

And how effective is it? How is it applied?

"The overall efficacy of this vaccine is about 33%, which means that one third of all middle ear infections are prevented. This seems like a relatively low figure but we should take into consideration that middle ear infection is caused by a large variety of various pathogens and we are covering only a part of them."

How was the vaccine tested?

"It is currently being tested in various clinical trials. We had 5,000 kids whom we split into two groups. A Hepatitis A vaccine was used as a control vaccine and we compared the occurrence of the disease in both groups."

If it's currently being tested, when do you expect it to be on the market?

"I think the vaccine will be registered in the EU in 2007 and we hope that it will be available in the Czech Republic at the beginning of 2008."