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Scientists link infection to soft contact lens use

Apr 5, 2006 | Palm Beach Post

Cornea specialists at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have documented an increased incidence of an aggressive form of fungal corneal infection that appears to be related to soft contact lens use.

Dr. Eduardo C. Alfonso, professor of ophthalmology and Edward W.D. Norton Chair in Ophthalmology, confirms treating an unusually large number of patients with fusarium keratitis, a potentially sight-threatening corneal infection normally associated with eye trauma involving fungus from plant or vegetable matter or soil.

This is quickly becoming a cause for alarm. We have mobilized cornea specialists throughout the world to hasten our understanding of the spread of this particular type of fungus and have learned of a sudden increase in the number of cases in the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia and Australia," said Alfonso, cornea and external disease specialist and medical director of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute's Microbiology Laboratory.

This high incidence of fungal corneal infections is unprecedented as most corneal infections related to contact lens use had previous been bacterial in nature, which is significantly less complicated to treat than fungal infections, he said.

Soft contact lens use has been the only identified risk factor of the cases seen between January and March 2006 at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute's Miami facility, where 21 cases have been identified. Between 2000 and 2005, the average number of fusarium keratitis cases was 21 per year. Keratitis is a term used to define a wide variety of infections, irritations, and inflammations of the cornea.

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