Hypothesis: Persistent measles virus infection of the otic capsule is suggested to be an etiologic factor in otosclerosis. Otosclerosis is a disease of complex unknown etiology causing progressive conductive and/or sensorineural hearing loss (HL).
Background: Diagnostic methods of otosclerosis are sensitive to ossicular chain fixation with low specificity for otosclerotic stapes ankylosis.
Methods: Nucleic acid was extracted from stapes footplates of clinically stapes fixation patients (N = 213). Measles virus nucleoprotein RNA was amplified by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Amplification results were correlated to histologic findings in 49 cases. Antimeasles IgG levels of all clinically stapes fixation as well as control sera specimens were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Among clinically stapes fixation patients, 141 stapes footplates contained measles virus RNA. Among 49 histologic specimens, viral RNA was detectable only in histologically otosclerotic stapes footplates (n = 35). Histology for virus-negative footplates (n = 14) excluded otosclerosis. Antimeasles IgG levels were significantly lower in the sera of patients with virus-positive stapes than in control sera.
Conclusions: Combination of decreased antimeasles IgG serum level and conductive HL has a great specificity and sensitivity as a diagnostic method in the preoperative evaluation of ossicular chain fixations otosclerosis. Low antimeasles IgG level indicates otosclerosis, whereas high level suggests nonotosclerotic ossicular chain fixations. Preoperative elucidation of the cause of a conductive HL may suggest optional medical treatment in preference to surgical methods.