An ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear, the air-filled region beneath the eardrum that houses the ear’s small vibrating bones. Ear infections are more widespread in children than adults.
New Procedure Can Cure Middle Ear Infections
Because ear infections frequently resolve on their own, therapy may begin with pain management and monitoring the issue. Antibiotics are sometimes used to treat infections. Some people are predisposed to multiple ear infections. This can result in hearing loss and other severe consequences.
More than 80% of children in the United States suffer from this. Researchers created a tiny 3D-printed device to inactivate Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the common bacteria that cause illness, in a recent study.
A microplasma jet array produces plasma, which is made up of charged particles and reactive chemicals that have previously been proven to inactivate different diseases. According to Jungeun Won, a doctoral student in the Boppart lab, this is the first time plasma technology has been used to treat middle ear infections. Typically, antibiotics or surgical interventions are used to treat the condition.
The issue with antibiotics is twofold. To begin, antibiotics are ineffective in more than 30% of individuals with acute illnesses. Second, since the bacteria create biofilms—aggregates that cling to the surface of the ear—their usage can lead to increased antibiotic resistance.
Biofilms are highly thick, making antibiotic penetration difficult, according to Helen Nguyen (IGOH), an Ivan Racheff Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering. They reasoned that if they could disturb the structure of the biofilm, they would be able to improve antibiotic penetration.
The researchers put the microplasma jet array to the test by creating a replica of the middle ear. They used an excised rat eardrum to evaluate the microplasma’s antibacterial properties on germs found behind the eardrum.
Won explained that they tried several treatment periods and discovered that 15 minutes and longer were successful in inactivating the germs. They also examined the tissue to see whether they had caused any holes or ruptures, but no evident physical damage was discovered.
According to Nguyen, microplasma breaks the biofilm by disrupting the bacterial cell membrane. So yet, they only have indirect measures to back up their theory, but they will investigate it more in the future.
Even though the thickness of the rat eardrum is 30% less than that of a person, which is roughly the width of a hair strand, the findings imply that microplasma therapy might be utilized to treat middle ear infections in people.
Middle ear infections, as well as the overuse of antibiotics to treat them, are important clinical issues that require novel treatment methods and solutions, according to Stephen Boppart, Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering and a medical practitioner.
The researchers are currently working on developing a smaller, earbud-shaped jet array for treatments with longer exposure periods. They will also test the devices on animal models utilizing biofilms of additional bacteria that cause middle ear infections, such as Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Moraxella catarrhalis, to see if the therapy is successful against these germs as well. Furthermore, the researchers will constantly monitor the tissues of the middle ear to verify that the plasma technology does not cause structural or functional tissue damage.
The research was conducted in collaboration with the laboratories of Eden, Intel Alumni funded Chair Emeritus in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Stephen Boppart, a Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering with consultation in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering departments.
The paper, Inactivation, and sensitization of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by microplasma jet array for treating otitis media, was published in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. The National Science Foundation, the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Institutes of Health sponsored the research.