Nasal microbial composition and chronic otitis media with effusion: A case-control study

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Objectives Chronic otitis media with effusion (COME) in children can cause prolonged hearing loss, which is associated with an increased risk of learning delays and behavioural problems. Dispersal of bacterial pathogens from the nasal passages to the middle ear is implicated in COME. We sought to determine whether there is an association between nasal microbial composition and COME in children. Methods A case-control study of children aged 3 and 4 years was conducted. Cases undergoing placement of tympanostomy tubes for COME were compared to healthy controls. Nasal swabs were collected and a questionnaire was administered. The V1-3 region of the 16S rRNA gene was amplified, and sequenced on the Illumina MiSeq. Results 73 children with COME had a lower Shannon diversity index than 105 healthy controls (1.62 [.80] versus 1.88 [.84], respectively; P = .046). The nasal microbiota of cases and controls differed in composition using Bray-Curtis dissimilarity (p = 0.002). Children with COME had a higher abundance of otopathogens and lower abundance of commensals including alpha haemolytic Streptococci and Lactococcus. Cluster analysis revealed 4 distinct nasal microbial profiles. Profiles that were Corynebacterium-dominated (aOR 4.18 [95%CI, 1.68–10.39], Streptococcus-dominated (aOR 3.12 [95%CI, 1.08–9.06], or Moraxella-dominated (aOR 4.70 [95%CI, 1.73–12.80] were associated with COME, compared to a more mixed microbial profile when controlling for age, ethnicity, and recent antibiotics use. Conclusions Children with COME have a less diverse nasal microbial composition with a higher abundance of pathogens, compared to healthy children who have a more mixed bacterial profile with a higher abundance of commensals. Further research is required to determine how nasal microbiota may relate to the pathogenesis or maintenance of COME, and whether modification of the nasal microbiota can prevent or treat children at risk of COME.




Walker, R. E., Walker, C. G., Camargo, C. A., Bartley, J., Flint, D., Thompson, J. M. D., & Mitchell, E. A. (2019). Nasal microbial composition and chronic otitis media with effusion: A case-control study. PLoS ONE, 14(2).

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