A high incidence of Staphylococcus aureus colonization in the external eyes of patients with atopic dermatitis

Ophthalmology. 2000 Dec;107(12):2167-71. doi: 10.1016/s0161-6420(00)00406-1.


Objective: To determine the frequency distribution of bacteria on the external surface of eyes of patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and to investigate the relationship between the frequency of bacterial colonization and the grade of atopy or ocular diseases associated with AD.

Design: Comparative cross-sectional study.

Participants: Thirty-six AD patients (mean age, 24.5 years) and 16 nonatopic, age-matched control participants (mean age, 25.5 years).

Intervention: The eyelid margins and conjunctival sacs were scraped with sterile swabs. These samples were inoculated into aerobic and anaerobic culture media.

Main outcome measures: The frequency distribution of bacteria isolated from the eyelid margins and conjunctival sacs.

Results: Bacteria isolated from AD patients were: Staphylococcus aureus in 21 of 36 patients (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in two patients); Staphylococcus epidermidis in two patients (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis in one patient); other coagulase-negative Staphylococcus in six patients;alpha-streptococcus in three patients; Corynebacterium species in three patients; Neisseria species in two patients; and Propionibacterium acnes in one patient. From the nonatopic control participants, we isolated S. aureus in one patient, S. epidermidis in two patients and alpha-streptococcus in one patient. S. aureus was isolated from 67% of the AD patients, and any type of bacteria was isolated from 86% of the patients. These rates were significantly higher than those of nonatopic control participants (6% S. aureus and 25% any bacteria). There was no significant relationship between the frequency distribution of bacteria and the grade of atopy or associated ocular diseases.

Conclusions: High rates of bacterial colonization, especially S. aureus, were found in the conjunctival sacs and eyelid margins of AD patients. In case management of AD patients, this unique distribution of bacteria must be carefully considered.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Conjunctiva / microbiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / classification
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / microbiology*
  • Eyelids / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Propionibacterium acnes / isolation & purification
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / isolation & purification
  • Streptococcus / isolation & purification