Local doctors taking part in ear infection study

Andrew Hyman
Created: October 07, 2019 06:48 PM

ROCHESTER N.Y. (WHEC) – Doctors in the Rochester Regional Health Network are taking a new look at a long-time problem.

In an exclusive partnership with the Center for Disease Control, doctors are studying the bacteria that causes ear infections. 


Michael Pichichero, Director of Research at Rochester General Hospital Research Institute, says the bacteria keeps changing.

“They're becoming resistant to the regular antibiotics that children are receiving,” Pichichero said. “And [Children] also get vaccines against ear infections."

Pichichero says those vaccines become less effective too. That can make treatment a challenge not only for doctors, but for parents like Stephanie Johnson, whose young son has already had a couple of severe infections.

According to Pichichero, symptoms of infection can range from ear pain to fevers. If left untreated, they can even lead to deafness. 

"You can't do anything,” Johnson said. “You don't want to keep giving them Tylenol and antibiotics, and you don't want to pump their body full of stuff."            

That is why her son is taking part in the study, which is already being run in Rochester Regional Health locations in Geneva, Newark and Bay Creek. The study involves draining and collecting samples from infected ears and then analyzing them in the labs at the Research Institute. 

Andrew Sherman, a Pediatrician at Bay Creek Pediatrics, says this could help take out the guess work in what will help treat an infection. 
"This was a good opportunity to do something extra that we couldn't do before," Sherman said.

Sherman has already treated Johnson’s son. He says the drainage procedure can provide instant relief to a child and also helps in the long-run.

"I want everyone to be able to get the relief that my little boy got," Johnson said

The goal is to gather enough data from patients like Johnson’s son to then help the CDC develop a new vaccine. That vaccine, Sherman says, could one day prevent future infections.

"A lot of children are having a lot of symptoms of fever and pain, and I want to be a part of something that can help decrease that," Sherman said.

The impact could be felt far beyond the Rochester area, helping children across the country.

Pichichero says it could take at least two years before the vaccine receives Food and Drug Administration approval for testing on children.

This study is still open, but only to patients who are currently attending one of the three RRH locations. It is otherwise free to take part it in.

For more info on ear infections, check here.

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