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Researchers at RGH create vaccine for "bane of a parent's existence"

A new vaccine, targeting ear infections, has been developed by researchers at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - A major breakthrough and a potential cause for celebration for parents and young children is happening in Rochester.

A new vaccine, targeting ear infections, has been developed by researchers at the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute.

"This is the bane of a parent's existence," said Michael Pichichero, M.D. "Children crying all not, trying to get into the doctor, missing work and taking kids out of daycare, because of the infection."

Dr. Pichichero is the Director of the Rochester General Hospital Research Institute. He said studies show five out of six children will develop an ear infection at some point in their early childhood.

Dr. Pichichero began researching ear infections a decade ago. He and his team discovered one strain of bacteria is to blame for a majority of ear infections.

"It's causing 60 percent of ear infections in children and when we saw that we realized a new vaccine would be needed," said Dr. Pichichero.

Hundreds of families in the Rochester area volunteered to help with the research. Pichichero and his team using an "Ear Tap" procedure to extract the bacteria and learn more about the infection.

Stacy Barkstrom's three children all took part in the study. Her kids are older now, but she remembers how frustrating it would be.

"It's a helpless feeling, because there is not much you can do to alleviate that and the pain is so terrible,' said Barkstrom.

Dr. Pichichero and his team believe the new vaccine will eliminate 60 percent of all ear infections. The group recently received a patent allowing them to start producing the vaccine.

The next step will be getting approval from the FDA. Dr. Pichichero said Tuesday he hopes the vaccine will be available in 18 to 24 months.

"A key thing as a physician and scientist is making sure this is something I would want to give my own grandchildren," said Dr. Pichichero. "So when I'm ready it'll be ok for my own grandchildren."

The research team also said the same bacteria that causes ear infections can also call sinus infections and bronchitis. Dr. Pichichero said he hopes that discovery means even more help will soon be on the way.

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