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SPECIALITY



        Microbiome discovery could



        help save kids’ hearing





             acteria found in children’s
             upper respiratory systems
        Bcould help fight chronic middle
        ear infections, the leading cause of
        preventable hearing loss and deafness
        in Indigenous communities.

        The University of Queensland’s
        Dr Seweryn Bialasiewicz said this
        discovery helped explain a long-held
        mystery, while providing hope for
        potential treatments.

        “We’ve been puzzled for years now,
        trying to work out why some children
        never develop chronic ear disease,
        despite being in a high-risk category
        for contracting it,” Dr Bialasiewicz said.

        “By focusing on the microbiomes       infections develop and could pave   “Our discovery could be applied
        in the upper respiratory tracts of    the way for new treatments.        across the world, helping
        disease-resistant kids, we could                                         improve health and reducing the
        investigate the ecological networks of   “Chronic middle ear infections   disadvantage gap for a wide range
        bacterial interactions that seemed to   can affect between one third to   of people,” he said.
        be working together to protect against   one half of Aboriginal and Torres
        the condition.                        Strait Islander children, which is far   The team has acknowledged the
                                              above the four per cent threshold   support of the Deadly Ears team,
        “It was clear that these two groups   that the World Health Organisation   the Queensland Health’s statewide
        of bacteria needed to not only be     considers as a disease needing     Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
        present, but to be interacting with   urgent public health action,” Dr   Ear Health Program doing on-the-
        each other, to provide protection from   Coleman said.                   ground treatment and education,
        middle ear infections.”                                                  as well as the generous assistance
                                              “This disease can cause hearing    of parents and children within the
        Dr Bialasiewicz said they were hoping   loss and can have life-long      participating communities.
        to use this information to figure     impacts on speech and language
        out what the exact mechanism of       development, education, and future   Story Source:
        protection is, and then mimic it in the   employment prospects, and in   Materials provided by University of
        very young children, as a therapy or a   Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander   Queensland. Note: Content may be
        preventative measure.                 populations contributes to the wide   edited for style and length.
                                              gap in educational and employment
        “This could take the form of a        outcomes.”                         Journal Reference:
        molecule that can be used as a                                           1. Andrea Coleman, Julian Zaugg,
        drug for treatment, or as a protective   The study investigated the      Amanda Wood, Kyra Cottrell, Eva
        probiotic so that these ‘good’ bacteria   microbiomes of 103 children    Grahn Håkansson, Jasmyn Adams,
        can be seeded in the nose early       aged two to seven from two north   Matthew Brown, Anders Cervin,
        enough to offer protection against the   Queensland communities.         Seweryn Bialasiewicz. Upper
        incoming ‘bad’ bacteria,” he said.                                       Respiratory Tract Microbiome of
                                              Dr Bialasiewicz said chronic       Australian Aboriginal and Torres
        Dr Andrea Coleman, who completed      middle ear infections resulting    Strait Islander Children in Ear
        her PhD work on the project this      in hearing loss was a major        and Nose Health and Disease.
        year, said the research provided a    problem with Indigenous and other   Microbiology Spectrum, 2021; 9 (2)
        new perspective on how middle ear     disadvantaged populations globally.  DOI: 10.1128/Spectrum.00367-21



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