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Alterations in Eye Microbiota Linked to Contact Lenses

Whether this increases risk for infection isn’t clear

WEDNESDAY, March 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Contact lenses may alter the natural bacterial environment of eyes, according to new findings published online March 22 in mBio.

The researchers collected samples from 58 adults, analyzing bacteria on the eye surface, the skin below the eye, and on contact lenses from 20 users. Additional samples were taken from 20 participants — about half of whom wore contact lenses — at three points over six weeks.

The investigators found that in people who don’t wear contacts, the bacterial composition of the eye is very different from that of the surrounding skin, with greater or lesser amounts of specific bacteria. By contrast, in contact lens wearers, the bacterial makeup of their eye surface was much more similar to the bacterial makeup of the surrounding skin.

Whether this is caused by finger-to-lens interaction or the actual act of wearing contacts remains unclear. But the findings raise questions as to whether this shift in microbial composition might boost the risk for eye infections, the study authors said. “Wearing contact lenses is known to increase the risk of microbial keratitis and other inflammatory eye conditions,” lead author Maria Dominguez-Bello, Ph.D., told HealthDay. Dominguez-Bello is an associate professor with the Human Microbiome Program at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.

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