Outbreak of an eye infection in contact lens wearers

Rates of Acanthamoeba keratitis an infection of the cornea tripled since 2011 in the southeast of England

Rates of Acanthamoeba keratitis an infection of the cornea tripled since 2011 in the southeast of England

Researchers at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital have found that an outbreak of a preventable eye infection common in contact lens wearers - Acanthamoeba keratitis - can lead to blindness.

A study in 2002 estimated the prevalence of Acanthamoeba keratitis in south east England to be 2.5 cases per 100,000 contact lens wearers, but current rates are two to three times higher, the latest research suggests. Infection Acanthamoeba, cyst-forming microorganisms, causing inflammation of the cornea. Symptoms include excessive pain and compromised vision.

"This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks", he added.

"It was clear that there is a problem", he said.

"There have been a few outbreaks in the USA, most notably from improper disinfection of contact lenses", said Dr. Jules Winokur, who practices at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

A study from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and University College London uncovered a rise in the number of cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis since 2011.

The researchers also conducted a case-control study of people who wear reusable contact lenses on a daily basis, although the disease is also associated with disposable lenses. A new study finds a surge in the UK. The study compared those 63 diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis with 213 people who went to the eye hospital for any other reason. "Only 70% of patients were cured within 12 months".

The researchers collected data from Moorfields Eye Hospital, from 1985 to 2016.

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The infection combines a tiny single-cell amoeba with the bacteria keratitis. Severe occurrences take up to 10 months to treat with antiseptic eye drops followed by 38 months of followup visits, according to the new study.

The most severely affected patients who make up a quarter of the total have less than 25 per cent of vision or become blind following the disease and face prolonged treatment. He explained that corneal transplant surgeries are sometimes necessary to treat holes in patients' eyes due to ulcers caused by the infection or to restore vision.

The research team found a threefold increase in Acanthamoeba keratitis since 2011 in South-East England.

Nearly eight years after her diagnosis, Ekkeshis regularly visits Moorfields because of problems linked to her cornea transplant.

She now campaigns to increase awareness of the infection, specifically advocating for a written warning on contact lens packaging on the importance of avoiding their contamination with water - one way to prevent the infection.

"Daily disposable lenses, which eliminate the need for contact lens cases or solutions, may be safer and we are now analysing our data to establish the risk factors for these", said Professor Dart.

Acanthamoeba is more commonly found in the United Kingdom than in other countries, likely due to higher levels found in domestic (as opposed to mains) water supplies, so that water contamination of contact lenses is of particular concern in the UK.

In addition, people who wore their contacts in swimming pools or hot tubs were also at risk, as were those who showered or washed their face while wearing their lenses, the study found. This could be because of poor contact lens upkeep, use of the wrong contact lens solution, or the contact lenses coming in contact with water.

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