60-Second Science

CSI: Eye--Contact Lenses Provide Clues To Infections

Contact lenses are more than twice as likely to provide doctors with samples of the microbes causing a corneal infection as is the cornea itself. Steve Mirsky reports.

September 11, 2007 -- CSI: Eye-Contact Lenses Provide Clues To Infections

If you ever get an infection of the cornea and you wear contact lenses, save the lenses!  They could help your doctor figure out what medication would be the best bet to cure what ails you. Wearing contacts is associated with an increased risk of microbial keratitis, or corneal eye infection.  Such an infection can sometimes lead to complications that might threaten your sight.  Doctors will take a scraping from the cornea and then try to identify whatever organisms are present.  But in a study reported in the September issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, only 34 percent of corneal scrapings from contact lens-wearing keratitis patients allowed researchers to identify the microbes involved.  But 70 percent of contact lenses from the affected patients harbored microbes.  The study included 49 patients—with a total of 50 infected eyes—seen at a hospital in Melbourne, Australia.  Said one of the study’s authors, “Contact lens culture may give a clue regarding the identity of the causative organism in situations in which the corneal scraping is culture negative, and may help in choosing the appropriate antimicrobial agent.”

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