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Date of preparation: March 2018

How does acute otitis media (AOM) develop? 

AOM occurs when a bacterial or viral infection causes mucus to build up in the middle ear which then becomes infected. 1

AOM is most commonly caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae bacteria, 2* and Moraxella catarrhalis. 3 

AOM is the most common childhood illness for which medical attention is sought, with over 350 million cases every year in children under 5 years of age 4. 4 out of 5 children experience AOM by the age of 3 years. 45 It can be distressing and burdensome, with parents reporting sleepless nights, missed work days and potential financial implications. 45

Otitis media (OM) is a leading cause of health care visits and drugs prescription. Its complications and sequelae are important causes of preventable hearing loss, particularly in developing countries. 5

Among children previously diagnosed with AOM, 73% of parents who were surveyed had to miss work or rearrange their working hours, resulting in a significant economic burden. 6

*Non-typable Haemophilus Influenzae statement based on data collected in Cali, Columbia.  


  1. Cripps A, et al. Bacterial otitis media: a vaccine preventable disease? Vaccine 2005; 23: 2304–10.
  2. Sierra A, et al. Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae as primary causes of acute otitis media in Colombian children: a prospective study. BMC Infect Dis 2011; 11: 4.
  3. Ruohola A, et al. Microbiology of acute otitis media in children with tympanostomy tubes: prevalences of bacteria and viruses. Clin Infect Dis 2006; 43: 1417–22.
  4. Vergison A, et al. Lancet Infect Dis 2010; 10(3): 195–203.
  5. Monasta L, et al. PLoS ONE 2012; 7(4): e36226.
  6. Barber C, et al. Acute otitis media in young children – what do parents say? Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2014; 78: 300–6.


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