If persistent, painful ear infections of childhood can lead to long-term hearing and learning difficulties. Our multidisciplinary team has established an international reputation for studies of the slowly-growing Alloiococcus otitidis, present in over half of chronic ear infections among Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and some acute infections in which none of the usual bacterial pathogens that cause middle ear infection can be detected.

This study has fostered a unique collaboration between paediatricians, surgeons, diagnostic services and basic sciences.  The result is a collection of A. otitidis clinical isolates, the largest in Australia and possibly worldwide; we are poised at the forefront of work on this pathogen. Advanced studies are required to assess crucial steps in pathogenesis. The aims of the current JHH charitable trust-funded project are to translate the initial findings to develop: improved detection of A. otitidis; identification of the most effective antibiotics for treatment and development of vaccine components to reduce ear infections.

The proposed project will utilise material collected in the currently funded project to examine the complex bacterial ecology of the middle ear and to examine changes that occur in otitis media. It has been widely recognised that most bacterial types (species) present on human body surfaces and mucosal regions (e.g., intestine, mouth, throat, middle ear) sites are not able to be cultured in the laboratory (cultivatable). There are new genetic-based techniques utilising nucleic amplification and sequencing that can demonstrate the wider bacterial diversity. These techniques determine what is called the „microbiome‟ or the total measurement of bacterial diversity in a body location.


Conjoint Professor Caroline Blackwell

Project type 
Project Grant
Year of funding