Researchers from the New York University (NYU) identified a diverse set of microorganisms in the eyes of daily contact lens wearers, which closely resemble the group of microorganisms of their eyelid skin than the bacterial grouping typically found in the eyes of non-wearers.
The eye surface, or conjunctiva, has higher bacterial diversity than the skin directly beneath the eye.
“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 examiner and microbiologist Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello at the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Some 5,245 distinct bacterial strains and sub-types were identified in the eyes of lens wearers, and 5,592 strains were identified in the eyes of non-lens wearers.
A similar but different composition of 2,133 strains and sub-types were identified in the skin directly beneath the eye of contact lens wearers, while 3,849 distinct bacteria were identified in non-lens wearers.
Many cases of potentially scarring bacterial keratitis, or eye inflammation, as well as conjunctival infections occur in contact lens wearers.
“We hope that our future experiments will show 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.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.