Nasal solution for ear infection in kids closer thanks to major grant

29/02/2024 | 3 mins

A nasal spray that could potentially prevent childhood ear infections that can lead to hearing loss and reduce antibiotic use is a step closer to clinical trials thanks to a $500,000 CUREator grant.

Spritz-OM guards the ear from infection using ‘friendly bacteria’ and aims to reduce the incidence of middle ear infection, or otitis media, in young children.

Developed by researchers at The University of Western Australia and the Telethon Kids Institute, the nasal spray has been shown to work in the laboratory, with work now underway to start clinical trials.

Adjunct Associate Professor Lea-Ann Kirkham from the UWA Medical School and Co-Head of the Bacterial Respiratory Infectious Disease Group at Telethon Kids’ Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, is the Scientific Lead and the inventor of Spritz-OM.

She said children worldwide suffer more than 700 million ear infections every year, with one in four experiencing recurrent infections and requiring antibiotics. For Aboriginal children, the figure increases to one in two children.

Globally, otitis media was the main reason children were prescribed antibiotics and underwent surgery. Treatment costs $500 million every year in Australia and $US5 billion in the United States.

“Otitis media prevention would mean fewer GP visits, fewer antibiotics, and fewer surgeries, allowing redirection of healthcare resources and reduced antimicrobial resistance pressure,” Associate Professor Kirkham said. 

“Socioeconomic value from otitis media prevention includes reduced absenteeism, improved hearing and educational outcomes, mitigation of health inequity, and enhanced wellbeing.”

The grant, made possible by CUREator, a national biotechnology incubator run by Brandon BioCatalyst to support the development of Australia’s biomedical and research innovations, would advance manufacturing of Spritz-OM so clinical trials can get underway.

Funded by the Medical Research Future Fund and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, CUREator provides grant funding programs for opportunities spanning from discovery to clinical development.

Five grants were awarded as part of the Minimising Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) stream of funding to target the growing threat of AMR. 

The World Health Organization identifies AMR as one of the biggest threats to global health and predicts that by 2050 it will be the world’s leading cause of death. 


Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 7975

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