After observing an association between vitamin A deficiency and otitis media among children in Micronesia, we sought to develop an animal model for vitamin A-deficiency-induced otitis media. Thirty juvenile guinea pigs were screened for absence for otitis and then divided into two groups. The experimental group was placed on a vitamin A-free diet, whereas control animals were fed a standard formula. The animals were followed by means of otologic examination and serum retinol determinations. When experimental animals demonstrated vitamin A deficiency, they were killed along with one control and temporal bones were harvested and prepared for histologic examination. None of the 15 controls demonstrated middle ear abnormalities. In the experimental group, 77% of temporal bones showed middle ear pathology consisting of either of subepithelial edema (27%) or frank otitis media (50%). These results indicate that the guinea pig is a suitable species for study of otitis media in association with vitamin A deficiency. We postulate that eustachian tube dysfunction is the primary mechanism for inducing middle ear inflammation in this animal model.
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