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For the most part, parents blame their kid’s ear infection on playing with unsanitized toys or their child’s propensity to stick their unwashed hands in their ears and mouths. While it is true that ear infections often start with a cold or a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, it turns out that researchers have discovered a startling genetic link that shows a higher rate of ear infections among those with a rare genetic mutation.
The argument between doctors about whether or not there’s a link between genes and an increase of ear infections has raged for quite a while. Recently, that argument was settled by a study conducted by Dr. Regie Lyn Santos-Cortez, who resides at the Baylor College of Medicine.
As assistant professor of molecular and human genetics, she studied the genetics and incidences of ear infections among indigenous members of the Philippines, who provided a superb sample to study because their relatively homogenous cultural and socioeconomic conditions.
After sequencing the genes of members of this society and comparing it to cases of ear infections that have occurred, they discovered that a variant in the A2ML1 gene signalled a strong correlation between a huge increase of likelihood of ear infections and that specific gene mutation.
This particular type of gene was likely spread throughout the world beginning with the Spanish, who helped to introduce this variant in Europe and the United States. Tests performed on three Texan children who are highly susceptible to ear infections found that the kids – an Hispanic-American and a pair of European Americans – have the same A2ML1 gene variant that’s found in the Philippines.
Doctors theorize that this gene prevents a protective protein from being present, which reduces the odds of contracting ear infections.
There’s nothing much that can be done to alter genes at the moment, which is a fact that one of the first genetic studies of ear infections lamented. One of the initial discoveries of a genetic link to ear infections was published by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who have recommended a preventative approach to the condition.
Dr. Margaretha Casselbrandt from this Pittsburgh institution, author of one of the first studies of this kind, said that “parents should try to eliminate risk factors such as bottle-feeding, daycare, and passive smoking.”
While ear infections tend to be completely manageable conditions that rarely result in serious complications, if left untreated, they can become serious enough to cause hearing loss, which leads to developmental difficulties.
By avoiding smoke and pollution, limiting pacifier use in your children, and treating allergies you can help reduce the incidence of ear infections. Also, visit a doctor at the Houston Sinus & Allergy facility for treatment to help reduce the chances that an ear infection becomes chronic.