The significant incidence of atopy associated with otitis media with effusion (OME) has suggested a role of allergy in the pathogenesis of OME. Analysis of inflammatory mediators indicates that the mucosa of the middle ear can respond to antigen in the same way as does the mucosa of the lower respiratory tract. Recent characterization of the mucosa and effusion from atopic patients with OME reveals a Th2 cytokine and cellular profiles consistent with an allergic response, supporting the role of allergy in OME. In addition, animal studies demonstrate that inhibiting characteristic allergy cytokines can prevent the production of middle ear effusion. As the understanding of allergy and its role in the inflammation of OME continues to deepen, this will introduce focused treatments of OME in the atopic population.
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