The permeability of the round window membrane for Salmonella typhimurium-derived endotoxin was examined with use of a total of 33 chinchillas. One milligram of each endotoxin was instilled into the tympanic cavities via the superior bullae. The endotoxin activities in middle ear effusions (MEEs), perilymph, and sera were determined by limulus amebocyte lysate assay. Endotoxin was detected in perilymph on the inoculated side by 12 hours after endotoxin instillation and persisted for up to 3 weeks. Endotoxin level peaked at 24 to 48 hours postinstillation, and it steadily declined afterward. This result suggests that the maximum penetration occurred during the active inflammatory stage. Histologic evidence demonstrated remarkable pathologic changes in the inner ear, including bleeding and inflammatory cell recruitment, mostly in the perilymphatic spaces (eg, scalae tympani, scalae vestibuli, spiral ligament), strial swelling, and sensory cell degeneration. This result suggests that endotoxin present in the middle ear can permeate the round window membrane, causing inner ear tissue damage in this animal model.
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