Bacteria May Be Lurking In Your Contact Lenses

First Posted: Jun 01, 2015 05:29 PM EDT

New findings presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans reveal that contact lenses can be particularly harmful due to unseen bacteria.

Statistics show that nearly one million Americans visit the doctor or the emergency room due to an eye infection, annually resulting in $175 million of direct medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The eye has a normal community of bacteria, expected to confer resistance to invaders," said senior study investigator Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, PhD, associate professor of the Human Microbiome Program at New York University School of Medicine, via TIME. However, inserting contact lesnes can disrupt its delicate balance, as well.

During the study, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center found that with high-precision genetic tests, several bacteria formed the human microbiome. It was seen that a varied set of microorganisms were similar to a group of eyelid skin that was found in the eyes of those who wear lenses when compared to the bacteria grouping typically found in the eyes of non-lense wearers.

Researchers then measured statistical germ diversity scores seen in the microbiome of the lens wearers that showed how composition was more similar to that of the wearer's skin than those who did not wear contacts.

However, the Staphyloccus Bacteria, which is linked to eye infections and more prominent on the skin, was actually seen more commonly in non-lens wearers.

"Despite being important in ophthalmology, the eye microbiome has been largely neglected, and its functions remain unknown," she concluded.

Furthermore, the study results don't seem too good for lens-wearers, with study results linking higher levels of pathogens that play roles in conjunctivitis, keratitis and endophalmitis-all related to inflammatory eye conditions.

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