MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph aureus) is the name of a feared, antibiotic resistant, species of bacteria that can cause serious infections, especially in hospitals or in those whose immune systems have been compromised. But this bacteria is now turning up in the ears of otherwise healthy children in otherwise healthy communities, according to a study in the October 2005 Archives of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery.
Ear drainage is common after ear tubes are placed in children. The authors of this study obtained cultures of this discharge, and found that MRSA is now commonly present. The good news is that, when it is isolated to the ear, it is usually easy to treat with topical antibiotic ear drops. But far more important than treating the MRSA is preventing this infection, which can be quite serious if it spreads.
The authors suggest that minimizing oral antibiotic use for ear infections to situations where the antibiotics are important can help prevent MRSA. The kids whose ear drainage had MRSA in the study averaged having had twice as many courses of oral antibiotics, lasting twice as long, as did their counterparts whose ear drainage featured much more benign bacteria. The AAP 2004 guidelines for treating ear infections offer clear instructions on which children need oral antibiotics for their ear infections, and which children (most children) will do better without them.