Which viruses are typically found in the middle ear of patients with acute otitis media (AOM)?

Updated: Sep 25, 2019
  • Author: John D Donaldson, MD, FRCSC, FACS; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Viruses have been recovered with increasing frequency as techniques to identify them by direct culture and by indirect means (eg, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA]) have improved. On direct culture, the yield is less than 10%, with the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) recovered most frequently; the influenza virus is a distant second. On ELISA, the presence of viral antigens is detected in approximately a quarter of middle ear aspirates; again, RSV is the virus most frequently detected by this method.

The presence of viruses in the middle ear effusion may influence the outcome of therapy for otitis media. Results of outcome studies have been mixed, ranging from no effect to evidence of prolongation of acuity and effusion when viruses are present in persons with AOM.

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