Why is Acanthamoeba keratitis on the rise?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Professor John Dart
  • Institute: University College London
  • Region: London
  • Start date: December 2014
  • End Date: November 2015
  • Priority: Emerging threats
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare condition that affects the cornea – the clear front surface of the eye. Acanthamoeba is a single-celled creature found in soil and water. If it gets into the eye it can cause serious problems.

Almost half of the people who become infected have sight loss as a result and a quarter eventually need a corneal transplant. Most people who become infected wear contact lenses.

Acanthamoeba keratitis normally affects up to 8 in every 100,000 contact lens wearers. But the number of infections is on the rise and so the team is learning more about people’s contact lens habits and how to lower the risk of getting it.

They’re doing what’s known as a ‘case control study’, which means they will compare contact lens wearers who have Acanthamoeba keratitis (the ‘cases’) with contact lens wearers who don’t (the ‘controls’). They are looking at how often lenses are worn, lens care and whether people shower or swim with their lenses in.

The results could have a significant impact on public health and will mean we can give advice on how to avoid infection based on the evidence.