Extended wear soft contact lenses are associated with an increased incidence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa keratitis. Because the first step in the pathogenesis of this disease is adherence of the microorganism to the corneal surface, we studied the effect of soft contact lens wear on the adherence of P. aeruginosa to the cornea. Rabbits were fitted for extended wear soft contact lenses in the left eye, and the right eye served as a control. Both eyes were then closed with a partial tarsorrhapy. After 1-5 days of wear, the lenses were removed. Differences in the number of adherent Pseudomonas and in lectin binding to lens-wearing corneas and non-lens-wearing corneas were determined. After 1, 3, and 5 days of soft contact lens wear, there was a significant increase in the number of P. aeruginosa adherent to the lens-wearing cornea. Three to eight times as many bacteria adhered to the lens-wearing eye as compared with the control eye (p < 0.05). In addition, a soft contact lens placed in the eye followed by the immediate application of P. aeruginosa resulted in an eightfold increase in adherence of bacteria to the lens-wearing cornea (p < 0.05). Lens wear also led to an increase in binding of concanavalin A (Con A), wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), and Maclura pomifera agglutinin (MPA) to surface epithelium covered by the lens. These corneal epithelial changes induced by extended wear soft contact lens may provide some insight as to why soft contact lens wearers are predisposed to Pseudomonas keratitis.
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