Giving GlaxoSmithKline’s Streptorix vaccine to infants can cut the incidence of otitis media – commonly known as glue ear – by a third, according to the results of the POET study published in The Lancet (March 4).

The vaccine appeared to protect against otitis media caused by both Steptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae, two of the most common causative agents of the infection, which afflicts 5-7 million children in the USA alone.

Streptorix is one of five vaccines highlighted by GlaxoSmithKline as underpinning the future development of its vaccines unit, which has emerged as a major new growth business for the group. The others are cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix, Rotarix for rotaviral gastroenteritis, an improved vaccine for influenza and vaccine combinations against meningitis.

Streptorix is being positioned by GSK as a more effective alternative to Wyeth’s Prevnar, which saw sales leap more than 40% to $1.5 billion in 2005. GSK maintains that while Prevnar has had a major impact on invasive pneumococcal disease, it has less efficacy against otitis media, does not include H influenzae protection and covers S pneumoniae serotypes that are not well-suited to a global vaccine.

GSK is due to file for approval of Streptorix in early 2007 in Europe, and later in the same year in the USA. The aim of the licensing studies will be to show non-inferiority to Prevnar in invasive pneumococcal disease in the first instance.