The frequent ear infections suffered by some infants during the first two years of life can be difficult to treat. Most are caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, also responsible for chest infections in adults and for which there is already a vaccine. A team from the National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland tested the efficacy of the new conjugate pneumococcal vaccine in children and found that it can also be effective in the prevention of ear infections (N Engl J Med 2001, 344:403-409).

Juhani Eskola and colleagues investigated 1662 infants in a randomised, double-blind trial of the heptavalent pneumococcal polysaccharide conjugate vaccine CRM197. The children received either the pneumococcal vaccine or a hepatitis B vaccine as a control at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months of age; they were followed up until the age of two years.

The vaccine reduced by 57% the number of episodes of...

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