A new study by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center may have found an interesting cause behind why contact lens wearers get certain eye infections more often than those that don’t wear contact lenses.
“Our research clearly shows that putting a foreign object, such as a contact lens, on the eye is not a neutral act,” said senior study investigator and NYU Langone microbiologist Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, PhD.
According to PRNewswire , in a study report on their work to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology on May 31 in New Orleans, NYU Langone researchers say they have identified a diverse set of microorganisms in the eyes of daily contact lens wearers that resembles the group of microorganisms of eyelid skin more than the bacterial grouping typically found in the eyes of non-wearers.
In other words, contact lens wearers’ eyes contain bacteria that more closely resembles that of eyelid skin.
The NYU Langone team found that the eye surface, or conjunctiva, has surprisingly higher bacterial diversity than the skin directly beneath the eye. The conjunctiva in the eyes of the study’s nine contact lens wearers had three times the usual proportion of Methylobacterium, Lactobacillus, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas bacteria than what was found on the surface of the eyeballs of 11 non-contact lens wearers.
The eye microbiome of contact lens wearers had a composition more similar to that of the wearer’s skin than the eye microbiome of non-lens wearers.
“What we hope our future experiments will show is whether these changes in the eye microbiome of lens wearers are due to fingers touching the eye, or from the lens’s direct pressure affecting and altering the immune system in the eye and what bacteria are suppressed or are allowed to thrive,” said Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor at NYU Langone.
“These findings should help scientists better understand the longstanding problem of why contact-lens wearers are more prone to eye infections than non-lens wearers,” she added.
The study’s co-investigator, Jack Dodick, MD, professor and chair of ophthalmology at NYU Langone, said there has been an increase in the number of corneal ulcers since the introduction of soft contact lenses in the 1970s.
“A common pathogen implicated has been Pseudomonas,” Dodick said. “This study suggests that because the offending organisms seem to emanate from the skin, greater attention should be directed to eyelid and hand hygiene to decrease the incidence of this serious occurrence.”