Vaccine Being Developed to Prevent Ear Infections in Children

June 9, 2005

Hoping to prevent ear infections for the more than 15 million children in the United States who suffer from them, a promising new vaccine candidate to prevent middle ear infections (otitis media) is being developed by researchers at the Columbus Children’s Research Institute (CCRI) on the campus of Columbus Children’s Hospital.

According to Lauren Bakaletz, PhD, director of the CCRI Microbial Pathogenesis Center, a faculty member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, and the principle investigator for the CCRI vaccine, the CCRI researchers recently partnered with the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmaceutical companies and other scientists in an effort to expedite the process of developing what they believe is a long-overdue vaccine for ear infections.

“An alliance of this nature has not been formed since the development of the pertussis vaccine for whooping cough,” said Bakaletz.  “Through the collaboration, human trials of a vaccine candidate are expected to begin within a year.”

Inner ear infections are the number one reason young children see their pediatricians, present to emergency departments, require surgery and lose their hearing. Further, it’s the number one reason physicians prescribe antibiotics—a growing concern because antibiotic resistance in children will make treating ear and other infections more difficult in the future.  A vaccine to prevent ear infections could alleviate these problems.

Ear infections occur when a child contracts a cold and the virus mixes with normal bacteria that live in the back of the throat. The bacteria take advantage of the child’s compromised immune system and travel through the Eustachian tube and into the middle ear.  

The CCRI vaccine targets the bacteria that live in the back of the throat. It causes the child to develop antibodies to the bacteria so the bacteria is reduced or eliminated and, therefore, can't travel to the middle ear.

The vaccine administration is intended at infancy since children under age four are most likely to suffer from an ear infection—the peak is around age two.  Currently, CCRI researchers are exploring both an injectable formula and a nasal spray.

Columbus Children’s ranks among the top 10 in National Institutes of Health research awards and grants to freestanding children’s hospitals in the country and houses the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. With nearly 600,000 patient visits each year, Children’s Hospital is a 112-year-old pediatric healthcare network treating newborns through age 21. In 2004, the Columbus Children’s Research Institute conducted more than 300 research projects and is the home of Centers of Emphasis encompassing gene therapy; molecular and human genetics; vaccines and immunity; childhood cancer; cell and vascular biology; developmental pharmacology and toxicology; injury research and policy; microbial pathogenesis; cardiovascular medicine; and biobehavioral health.  Pediatric Clinical Trials International (PCTI), a site management organization affiliated with the hospital, also coordinated more than 50 clinical trials. In addition to having one of the largest ambulatory programs in the country, Children’s offers specialty programs and services. More than 75,000 consumers receive health and wellness education each year and affiliation agreements with nearly 100 institutions allow more than 1,700 students and 500 residents to receive training at Children’s annually. More information on Children’s Hospital of Columbus is available by calling (614) 722-KIDS (5437) or through the hospital’s website at

About Nationwide Children's Hospital

Named to the Top 10 Honor Roll on U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 list of “Best Children’s Hospitals,” Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of America’s largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric health care systems providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children and adolescents, as well as adult patients with congenital disease. Nationwide Children’s has a staff of more than 13,000 providing state-of-the-art pediatric care during more than 1.5 million patient visits annually. As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children’s physicians train the next generation of pediatricians and pediatric specialists. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is one of the Top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded freestanding pediatric research facilities. More information is available at