Acanthamoeba keratitis update-incidence, molecular epidemiology and new drugs for treatment

Eye (Lond). 2003 Nov;17(8):893-905. doi: 10.1038/sj.eye.6700563.


A reliable figure for the expected incidence of Acanthamoeba keratitis of one per 30000 contact lens wearers per year has now been obtained from a combination of three cohort and three Questionnaire Reporting Surveys; 88% of cases wore hydrogel lenses and 12% wore rigid lenses. This figure now provides a basis for the expected number of cases against which to judge either epidemic outbreaks or effects of prevention with disinfecting solutions, better hygiene, or the use of disposable lenses. Molecular biology of Acanthamoeba has advanced considerably in the last 10 years with new automated sequencing technology. This has allowed the construction of a genotype identification scheme with 13 different genotypes against which to compare clinical isolates for epidemiological investigations or pathogenicity markers. So far, only four genotypes have been associated with keratitis of which the majority have been T4 but T3, T6, and T11 have each caused individual cases. Each genotype is heterogenous and can be further subdivided by comparison of sequences of diagnostic fragments of 18S rDNA, riboprinting by PCR-RFLP of 18S rDNA, or by mitochondrial DNA RFLP. Drug therapy has been revolutionised with the introduction of the biguanides-chlorhexidine or polyhexamethylene biguanide-with most but not all infections quickly resolving. Failure can still occur occasionally and further research is needed on more effective combination chemotherapy. A number of guanidines have been identified in this paper that could be usefully pursued as part of combination chemotherapy along with the alkylphosphocholines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis / drug therapy
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis / epidemiology*
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis / genetics
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Contact Lenses / adverse effects
  • Genotype
  • Guanidines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Incidence


  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Guanidines