Acanthamoeba under the microscope

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Mr Scott Hau
  • Institute: Moorfields Eye Hospital
  • Region: London
  • Start date: March 2016
  • End Date: March 2017
  • Priority: Early detection
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


Acanthamoeba keratitis is a rare but potentially sight threatening infection that affects the front window of the eye (the cornea). It can be very difficult to diagnose, but a late diagnosis can mean the effect on vision is much worse than if it’s caught early.

At the moment, there is no reliable way to tell how bad the infection is and who might need a longer course of treatment. So in this project the team is using a powerful type of microscope (called a confocal) that is sometimes used for diagnosis. It can focus on points at different depths in the cornea and a computer then builds-up a clear 3D image.

In this case the team is looking at cysts caused by Acanthamoeba to see whether their size, shape and how densely packed they are in a patient’s cornea relate to the medical notes for the same patient. They are looking back at confocal images from 100 patients.

If their analysis of the confocal images matches up well with what was in the patient’s medical notes the team will know they can use this type of analysis in future. The aim is to be able to have an accurate prognosis for each patient early on. That would make it possible to work out who needs extra treatment to reduce their risk of sight loss.