UR aims to develop vaccine against kids' ear, sinus ills

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By the age of 3, 83 percent of the nation's children have had at least one ear infection that turns a precious little one into a nonstop squaller.

Now University of Rochester Medical Center researchers are working on development of a vaccine that could wipe out childhood ear and sinus infections, as well as many cases of adult bronchitis.

Medical Center officials say this vaccine would not be aimed at saving lives, but at preventing nuisance illnesses.

UR's department of microbiology and immunology is in the midst of recruiting 400 local families of infants and toddlers whom researchers will test and follow for the next two years. The goal is to determine why some children's natural immune systems protect them from the nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae strain of bacteria — the leading cause of ear and sinus infections in children and bronchial infections in adults.

Those different immunity responses "hold the key" to a vaccine, said Dr. Michael Pichichero, UR professor of microbiology, immunology, pediatrics and medicine. Once the immunity response is determined, researchers expect to be able to select the right bacterial proteins to include in a vaccine.

The effort got $500,000 from the Thrasher Research Fund and hopes to see $3.5 million from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders.

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