High School Senior Presents Poster At American Society for Microbiology 112th General Meeting

Jun 14, 2012, 09:00 ET from House Research Institute

Research May Explain Recurrent Ear Infections in Children

LOS ANGELES, June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kathleen Maguire, a Marlborough High School Senior, is presenting a poster at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Conference in San Francisco on June 16-19. In order to attend the conference, Maguire became a special member of the society. She is the first high school student to have a poster presentation at an ASM 112th General Meeting.

Maguire will be presenting the poster on Sunday, June 17, 2012, from 10:45 A.M. - 12:30 P.M. at the ASM 2012 112th General Meeting at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Her poster is number 251 and is part of the session: Microbial Development, Behavior, Chemotaxis and Motility (Division I).

For the past two years, Maguire has been a student researcher in the House Research Institute lab of Paul Webster, Ph.D.

"When Kathleen arrived two years ago, she quickly learned that research is full-time job and she had to make a choice between summer volleyball training or spending the summer in my laboratory," said Webster. "Her success in finishing the research and being accepted into the ASM 2012 Annual meeting is proof of her dedication to the research."

Webster's lab specializes in understanding how bacterial biofilms form and cause chronic infections such as acute otitis media, inflammation of the middle ear, commonly referred to as childhood ear infections. Biofilm infections have also been implicated in cystic fibrosis pneumonia, prostatitis, non-healing ulcers, dental caries and many hospital-acquired infections.

Biofilms are a collection of bacteria that secrete an extracellular matrix. The bacteria use this extracellular matrix to attach to one another and to surfaces, such as epithelial cells. Once in a biofilm, the bacteria are more resilient to antibiotics and host defenses, which leads to chronic infections.

The theory that bacterial biofilms are a primary source of infection in chronic forms of otitis media is a new concept. However, biofilm structures have been identified on middle ear mucosa taken from children with recurrent acute otitis media and chronic otitis media with effusion.

Maguire's research focused on otitis media and biofilms. The class of antibiotics studied was beta-lactams (penicillins and cephalosporins) which are the most commonly prescribed drugs for treating ear infections. The research showed that if the pathogenic bacteria, in this case non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae, were exposed to amounts of antibiotics at a dosage that did not completely eliminate the bacteria, then the bacteria would form strong biofilms.

According to the research team, this stimulation of biofilm formation may explain why children have recurrent ear infections. The findings may also explain why Haemophilus influenzae infections are more likely to appear after antibiotic treatments for previous ear infections.

"We hope this research will alert physicians to a previously unidentified side effect of using antibiotic for treating middle ear infections," said Webster. "The findings will contribute to the discussion on the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating otitis media, and the possibility of instead, using non-traditional antimicrobial treatment regimes."

"Working in Dr. Webster's lab has been the most fulfilling aspect of my high school experience. The opportunity to work on an independent research project, present my research, and write a paper for publication has allowed me to develop skills that will be invaluable as I move into the world of college research," said Maguire, who has been accepted into University of California, San Diego's Medical Scholars Program.

"My favorite part of this experience was working with the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and the confocal laser scanning microscope (cLSM). It was an extraordinary opportunity to have access to such sophisticated equipment. I am grateful to Dr. Webster and House Research Institute for allowing me to perform research as a high school student."

About the House Research Institute
The House Research Institute, formerly the House Ear Institute, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders through scientific research, patient care, and the sharing of knowledge. Institute scientists research the auditory system, at the level of function, as well as at the cellular, molecular and genetic levels. We also explore the neurological interactions between the auditory system and brain, and study ways to improve auditory implants, diagnostics, clinical treatments and intervention methods. We share our knowledge with the scientific and medical communities as well as the general public through our education and outreach programs. For more information about the House Research Institute, please call (800) 388-8612 or (213) 483-4431, E-mail info@hei.org or visit www.houseresearch.org.

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SOURCE House Research Institute