A 'superbug' that is resistant to drugs has started to cause serious ear infections in children. So far, nine cases have been reported by doctors in America, but researchers fear that many more children have been affected.
A variant of Streptococcus pneumoniae - known as serotype 19A - is causing cases of acute otitis media, an infection of the middle ear. Of the nine cases reported by one clinic in Rochester, New York, four could be treated only by surgery.
The new strain emerged following the introduction of a vaccination programme in 2000, which doctors say achieved immunity against seven pneumococcal strains. It was first seen in children in Alaska, but has since been reported in the USA.
Some of the infected children responded to the powerful antibiotic levofloxacin, which is supposed to be given only to adults, and so was used without the usual safety controls.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2007; 298: 1772-8).