Tea tree oil: in vitro efficacy in otitis externa

Farnan TB, McCallum J, Awa A, Khan AD, Hall SJ
Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2005


The purpose of this study was to determine the susceptibility of organisms causing otitis externa (OE) to the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia, or tea tree oil (TTO).

Fifty-seven swabs were taken from the ears of 52 patients with OE for culture and sensitivity. A broth microdilution method was used to determine the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of TTO for each organism.

In 51 percent of the swabs taken, pathogenic organisms were cultured. Of these cultures 71 percent, both bacteria and yeast, were susceptible to TTO 2 percent or less. The only organism showing resistance to TTO was Pseudomonas aeruginosa; however 25 percent of these bacteria were sensitive.

Tea tree oil may have a role to play in the treatment of OE. However, more work needs to be done to enhance the anti-pseudomonal effect and to assess ototoxicity.


Farnan TB, McCallum J, Awa A, Et Al. Tea tree oil: in vitro efficacy in otitis externa. J Laryngol Otol. 2005;119(3):198-201.

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