After a national search, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selected Rochester Regional Health as the only healthcare provider in the nation to collect pivotal research on childhood ear infections. The research will guide national policy decisions and the development of antibiotic treatments and vaccines.
Rochester Regional Health Research Institute Director Michael Pichichero, a physician, is leading the project. He is the top-rated expert on ear infections in the world and Rochester General Hospital is the tenth-highest ranked institution in the world for ear infection expertise.
“The strains of bacteria causing ear infections are different than even a few years ago,” said Pichichero. “Many ear infections today are being caused by different bacteria, and the bacteria can be resistant to the antibiotics typically used. The research we’re providing will inform the CDC and other institutions about the bacteria they should be targeting. Our work will also guide future vaccine development.”
According to the World Health Organization, ear infections occur globally in 60% of children between the ages of 1 and 4, representing more than 700 million cases each year. In the United States, ear infections lead to roughly 30 million doctor’s office visits each year, and the annual cost to treat ear infections in this country is roughly $6 billion.
The samples will be collected using an ear tap — a procedure that allows a physician to collect a fluid sample from an infected ear and pinpoint the bacteria causing the infection. In addition to informing critical research, the ear tap benefits the individual child. By draining the fluid, doctors can better treat the infection and the child is less likely to have repeat infections.
“The ear tap is painless with Novocaine on the eardrum. It helps the child and informs critical research; but it requires the provider to have specialized training,” Pichichero explained. “We have a team of doctors well-versed in administering ear taps, and that’s one of the reasons the CDC chose Rochester Regional Health as the award recipient.”
The ear infection samples will be collected at three Rochester Regional Health pediatric primary care sites, each led by a practicing physician. The lead practice will be Finger Lakes Medical Associates in Geneva, led by physician Steven Schulz. Pediatricians at Newark, led by Nevidita Prabhu, and Bay Creek Pediatrics in Penfield, led by physician Andrew Sherman, will also participate.
“When research can benefit the greater good as well as the child sitting in front of me, that’s the kind of study I want to be part of,” Andrew Sherman, pediatrician at Rochester Regional Health’s Bay Creek Pediatrics.