Glue Ear Infections Healed with Disolving Pellets

Antibiotic pellets provide a better option for glue ear

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When thick, sticky fluid collects behind the ear drum over a period of weeks and months, patients can develop glue ear, a painless condition that could lead to hearing loss. Scientists have found an innovative way to treat it.

A small controlled-release antibiotic pellet that can be surgically implanted in the middle ear could help easily heal the condition and reduce chances of reoperation.

"Ask your ENT about availability of antibiotic pellets."

Dr. John Birchall, a professor of otorhinolaryngology at the University of Nottingham in England, said that glue ear is a common ailment seen in children that can result in hearing loss, speech problems and repeat ear infections.

He said the new treatment is exciting since researchers are particularly concerned about children with glue ear that comes back despite grommet surgery, or the insertion of small ventilation tubes. With repeat procedures there is a risk of permanent damage to the ear drum or middle ear.

The biodegradable pellets release the antibiotics over a period of three weeks. It also reduces the chance of a second or third operation, which occurs in about 20 percent of cases using the traditional grommet surgery.

About 80 percent of all children are temporarily affected by glue ear. As many as 33,000 grommets are fitted in England and Wales each year. Glue ear is caused by biofilms when bacteria grows together to build a protective "slime."

The condition can be difficult to treat because the biofilms can be resistant to antibiotics. Often, the antibiotics work only temporarily and repeated grommet operations are needed.

The tiny pellets were designed to be placed  into the ear. Scientists found a way to demolish the biofilms with an expectorant that also reduces mucus, which made it easier to treat the infection and made the pellets more potent.

The research was presented to the Royal Society of Medicine, where it won the ENTEX short papers prize. It also was presented and recognized at the ENT UK annual meeting and the Otorhinolaryngologic Research Society Meeting.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 4, 2011
Last Updated:
August 7, 2011