Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine reduces number of ear infections

The advent of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine may have caused a significant drop in cases of otitis media, also known as ear infection, according to a study recently published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston conducted an 11-year study to examine the trends in otitis media-related healthcare use since the first pneumococcal conjugate vaccine was introduced in 2000. The researchers found a downward trend in otitis media-related visits from 2004 to 2011, with a significant drop in children younger than two years after the pneumococcal conjugate 13-valent vaccine was introduced in 2010.

"Medical interventions in the past decade, especially with the introduction of new vaccines, have really reduced the burden of this common childhood disease," Tasnee Chonmaitree, the lead author of the study, said.

Otitis media is the leading cause of pediatric healthcare visits and the most frequent reason children undergo surgery or are prescribed antibiotics. Chonmaitree said that otitis media-related healthcare costs an estimated $4 billion annually in the U.S. alone.

Chonmaitree said the prevention of otitis media could help to reduce the disease burden on parents in dealing with sick children.

PCV-13 prevents against 13 strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae, a pathogen related to acute otitis media. PCV-7, the first licensed pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in the U.S., was associated with a significant reduction in ear infections and a reduction in tube insertion related to recurrent and chronic ear infections.