Pathogenic strains of Acanthamoeba are causative agents of a sight-threatening infection of the cornea known as Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) which mainly affects contact lens wearers and it is commonly related to poor hygiene of contact lenses and their cases. Moreover, treatment of AK is complex due to the existence of a highly resistant cyst stage and if not diagnosed early has poor prognosis, leading to blindness and/or keratoplasty. Even though AK is increasing worldwide as well as awareness among patients and clinicians, it is still a poorly studied pathogen. Additionally, a remaining question to be answered is whether these opportunistic pathogens are present in the ocular surface of healthy contact lens wearers since they are the main group at risk.In order to carry out this study, sterile Schirmer strip tests were collected from a group of individuals all of them contact lens wearers who were attending a local ophthalmology clinic in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. The collected samples (100 eyes of 50 patients) were cultured in 2% Non-Nutrient Agar (NNA) plates and positive plates (16) were then cultured in axenic conditions for further analyses. Molecular analysis classified all isolated strains belonged to Acanthamoeba genotype T4 and osmotolerance and thermotolerance assays revealed that all strains were potentially pathogenic. In conclusion, the ocular surface of contact lens wearers included in this study was colonized by potentially pathogenic strains of Acanthamoeba and should be considered as a risk for AK infection in this region and worldwide.
This work and MRB were supported by the grant RICET (project no. RD16/00127/0001 of the programme of Redes Temáticas de Investigación Cooperativa, FIS), Spanish Ministry of Health, Madrid, Spain and Proyectos Puente 2017 ULL. ALA and IS were funded by the Agustín de Bethancourt Programme.
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