Purpose: To determine the risk factors and clinical signs of Curvularia keratitis and to evaluate the management and outcome of this corneal phaeohyphomycosis.
Methods: We reviewed clinical and laboratory records from 1970 to 1999 to identify patients treated at our institution for culture-proven Curvularia keratitis. Descriptive statistics and regression models were used to identify variables associated with the length of antifungal therapy and with visual outcome. In vitro susceptibilities were compared to the clinical results obtained with topical natamycin.
Results: During the 30-year period, our laboratory isolated and identified Curvularia from 43 patients with keratitis, of whom 32 individuals were treated and followed up at our institute and whose data were analyzed. Trauma, usually with plants or dirt, was the risk factor in one half; and 69% occurred during the hot, humid summer months along the US Gulf Coast. Presenting signs varied from superficial, feathery infiltrates of the central cornea to suppurative ulceration of the peripheral cornea. A hypopyon was unusual, occurring in only 4 (12%) of the eyes but indicated a significantly (P = .01) increased risk of subsequent complications. The sensitivity of stained smears of corneal scrapings was 78%. Curvularia could be detected by a panfungal polymerase chain reaction. Fungi were detected on blood or chocolate agar at or before the time that growth occurred on Sabouraud agar or in brain-heart infusion in 83% of cases, although colonies appeared only on the fungal media from the remaining 4 sets of specimens. Curvularia was the third most prevalent filamentous fungus among our corneal isolates and the most common dematiaceous mold. Corneal isolates included C senegalensis, C lunata, C pallescens, and C prasadii. All tested isolates were inhibited by 4 micrograms/mL or less of natamycin. Topical natamycin was used for a median duration of 1 month, but a delay in diagnosis beyond 1 week doubled the average length of topical antifungal treatment (P = .005). Visual acuity improved to 20/40 or better in 25 (78%) of the eyes.
Conclusions: Curvularia keratitis typically presented as superficial feathery infiltration, rarely with visible pigmentation, that gradually became focally suppurative. Smears of corneal scrapings often disclosed hyphae, and culture media showed dematiaceous fungal growth within 1 week. Natamycin had excellent in vitro activity and led to clinical resolution with good vision in most patients with corneal curvulariosis. Complications requiring surgery were not common but included exophytic inflammatory fungal sequestration, treated by superficial lamellar keratectomy, and corneal perforation, managed by penetrating keratoplasty.