‘No water’ campaign warns of a sight-threatening infection

20 November 14

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Contact lens manufacturer adds 'No water’ campaign message to their packaging to raise awareness of Acanthamoeba keratitis – a serious, sight-threatening eye infection.

You may have seen the news that the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) is supporting a patient-led campaign warning contact lens wearers to keep water away from their lenses and lens case. Contact lens manufacturer Clearlab has agreed to add the BCLA’s ‘No water’ stickers to their packaging to raise awareness of the danger of contracting Acanthamoeba keratitis – a serious, sight-threatening eye infection.

A woman putting in a contact lens.
Make sure your hands are clean and dry before touching your lenses.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by single-celled organisms that are usually found in water and soil. Infection makes the clear, outer surface of the eye, become painful and inflamed. It requires immediate attention, but can be hard to treat. In the most serious cases surgery is needed to remove the damaged cornea and replace it with one from a donor.

Who will develop severe symptoms?

Dr Nicole Carnt is a post-doctoral research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, who is currently working on a Fight for Sight-funded project to identify genes that affect how well different people fight the infection. Some people with Acanthamoeba keratitis only show mild symptoms, but others develop severe inflammation and scarring. She says:

“We’re looking for genetic factors that affect how the immune system responds to infection with Acanthamoeba keratitis. If we can find out who might be badly affected, we may be able to give guidance to practitioners on how to tweak current or new treatments.”

Infections may be on the rise

Contact lens wearers are most at risk of Acanthamoeba keratitis infection, but it can also follow corneal injury. Although the risk of infection is rare, it may be on the rise. Moorfields Eye Hospital has seen an increase in patients and, within the past year, five have lost their eye.

“We have granted a no-cost extension to the research team to allow them to include more participants, to reflect the increase in cases they have seen at Moorfields,” said Dr Dolores Conroy, Fight for Sight’s Director of Research. “Studies such as this are vital given the urgent need to improve treatment for this sight-threatening infection. In the meantime we very much welcome the BCLA’s initiative to raise awareness in the people most at risk of infection.”

Fight for Sight is also funding research at the University of Sunderland that aims to develop a test to diagnose Acanthamoeba infection earlier.