Innate immunity and the role of defensins in otitis media

Mark Underwood, Lauren Bakaletz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Otitis media is the most common pediatric disease in developed countries and a significant cause of morbidity and hearing loss in developing countries. The innate immune system is essential to protecting the middle ear from infection. Defensins, broad-spectrum cationic antimicrobial peptides, have been implicated in prevention of and the early response to acute otitis media; however, the mechanisms by which defensins and other antimicrobial molecules mediate this protection have not been completely elucidated. In both animal otitis media models and human middle ear epithelial cell culture models, β-defensins are highly induced and effectively kill the common pathogens associated with otitis media. We review the importance of innate immunity in protecting the middle ear and recent advances in understanding the roles of defensins and other antimicrobial molecules in the prevention and treatment of otitis media. The extremely high prevalence of otitis media, in spite of sophisticated innate and adaptive immune systems, is a vexing problem for clinicians and scientists. We therefore also review mechanisms by which bacteria evade innate immune defenses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-507
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Allergy and Asthma Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Defensin
  • Innate immunity
  • Otitis
  • Otitis media
  • Pathogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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