The bacteria surviving in contact lens cleaning solution

From l to r: Nicholas Lockwood, Prof Simon Maskell, Dr Alex Phillips and Andre Finn.

ContactLens-2wThe team tested different strains of the keratitis-causing bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa for their ability to survive in a commonly used contact lens cleaning solution

Researchers at the University of Liverpool, have found that a bacterial strain associated with severe infections shows enhanced resistance to a common contact lens disinfectant solution.

Each year in the UK, bacterial infections cause around 6,000 cases of a severe eye condition known as microbial keratitis – an inflammation and ulceration of the cornea that can lead to loss of vision.

Risk factor

The use of contact lenses has been identified as a particular risk factor for microbial keratitis.

Researchers from the University and the Royal Liverpool University and Broadgreen NHS Trust tested different strains of the keratitis-causing bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa for their ability to survive in a commonly used contact lens cleaning solution.

The team compared nine clinical strains of P. aeruginosa, taken from hospital patients in the UK, with P. aeruginosa strain 9027, the standard strain used by lens solution manufacturers.

“Microbial keratitis can be devastating for a patient – it is important that the risk of developing this condition is reduced in contact lens wearers by improving contact lens disinfectant solutions”
The results showed that the majority of clinical strains tested were killed within 10 minutes of being immersed in the contact lens solution, comparable with the standard reference strain. However, one clinical isolate, P. aeruginosa strain 39016 – associated with a more severe case of keratitis with a prolonged healing time – was able to survive for over four hours, much longer than the reference strain.

There are more than three million people in the UK using contact lenses. This work suggests that this type of bacteria should be included when testing the efficacy of contact lens cleaning solutions to ensure that the procedures are sufficiently robust to kill all P. aeruginosa strains.

Professor of bacteriology, Craig Winstanley, from the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, led the research. He said: “Microbial keratitis can be devastating for a patient – it is important that the risk of developing this condition is reduced in contact lens wearers by improving contact lens disinfectant solutions.”

Investigate further strains

The research group plans to investigate further strains to find out how widespread the enhanced bacterial resistance is and to better understand the mechanisms underlying it. This will potentially help in the design of more effective disinfectant procedures.

The research was presented today at the Society for General Microbiology Annual Conference in Liverpool.

Find out more about studying bacteriology on the University Study Pages or follow the Institute of Infection and Global Health on Twitter.

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