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January 2010 - March 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Otolaryngology

PI: Vladimir L. Tsuprun

Effect of Middle Ear Inflammation on the Inner Ear

Otitis media (OM), one of the most common of childhood diseases and a major public health problem, is multi-factorial with host defenses, virulence characteristics of bacteria, and environmental and genetic factors playing roles. The disease can lead to middle ear and inner ear pathology and hearing loss. There are fundamental gaps in our understanding of how bacterial pathogens in OM cause the inflammatory response in the middle ear, the mechanism of the innate defense system, middle and inner ear interaction, inner ear pathology, and hearing loss due to OM. This prompted these researchers to develop a cogent investigation of the molecular processes underlying migration of infectious agents from the middle to the inner ear and the effects of such migration on ear pathology and auditory function. Widespread use of antibiotics has resulted in an increase of antibiotic-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae and Moraxella catarrhalis, and an increased potential for chronic OM development and its complications. There is no outcome evidence that treatment of OM with antibiotics protects against deafness or recurrent attacks.

The long-term goal of this research is to develop novel approaches for prevention and treatment of OM and its complications that differ from current approaches that have led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This project concentrates on a new strategy for prevention of OM and its inner ear complications that relies on a combination of PspA and other conserved proteins of S. pneumoniae. The researchers are utilizing different mutant bacterial strains and immunization of animals against these proteins. The objective is to understand the role of bacterial virulence factors in bacterial invasion, colonization, and pathogenesis in the middle and inner ears for therapeutic targeting and to develop a vaccine composition that optimally neutralizes the most critical protein virulence factors.

Group Member

Steven K. Juhn, Co-Principal Investigator