When Contacts Attack! Amoebas in Contact Lenses Cause Blindness

By Nina Bai | October 21, 2008 3:26 pm

contact lensIs that an amoeba crawling on your eyeball? If you wear contact lenses, the answer is probably yes. Scientists testing contact lenses and lens cases found that more than 65 percent were infected with Acanthamoeba, a pathogenic amoeba. These bacteria-eating amoebae can cause extremely painful eye infections which may even lead to blindness.

Acanthamoeba is a common microbe found in soil and fresh water. It often makes its way into tap water and swimming pools, which is why rinsing out your contacts with tap water or wearing them while swimming increases your chances of infection. It also prefers warmer climates—including your eyeball.

To test for Acanathamoeba, scientists placed the contact lenses in petri dishes coated with E.coli bacteria and looked for bacteria-free patches left by feeding amoeba. The study found high numbers of the amoeba contaminating multi-use lenses, but daily contact lenses were amoeba-free.

Although the antibiotic chlorhexidine can kill the amoeba, regular contact lens solutions don’t contain enough of the antibiotic to get rid of them. But contacts wearers, despair not: Help is on the way! The scientists, who published their findings in the Journal of Medical Microbiology [subscription required], are developing a contact solution that will kill all  Acanthamoeba, and leave your eyeballs infection-free.

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Image: flickr/ schani

MORE ABOUT: amoeba, eyes
  • gary smith

    My grand daughter just lost the sight in one eye to this infection. I, my wife, and daughter have worn contacts on and off for years and this is the first time we have ever heard about this. Why aren’t doctors explaining this condition to contact lens wearers?

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  • Gabriela Chiran

     I so sorry about your grand doughter loss of one eye sight. This disease discovered sooner can be cured?
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