Acanthamoeba keratitis in Scotland: risk factors for contact lens wearers

Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 1999;22(2):58-68. doi: 10.1016/s1367-0484(99)80004-6.


Objective: To investigate risk factors for Acanthamoeba keratitis amongst contact lens wearers in Scotland.

Design: Patients with Acanthamoeba keratitis in the Scottish study, all of whom wore contact lenses, were compared with 46 healthy asymptomatic contact lens-wearing controls. They were all visited at home for contact lens and environmental microbiological sampling. In addition, all 288 optical practices in the West of Scotland were polled for contact lens types and disinfecting solutions sold in 1995, and a sample, each of whom fitted more than 500 contact lenses per year, were polled for a second time. Independently, a poll was commissioned by the Eyecare Information Service in July/August 1995 to estimate the numbers of contact lens wearers in Scotland and the UK. Industry was polled for numbers of each contact lens disinfecting regimen sold in Scotland in 1995.

Setting: West of Scotland, UK.

Subjects: All contact lens wearers among the 3 million population of the West of Scotland Health Board Areas.

Main outcome measures: Risk factors for Acanthamoeba infection and recommendations for its prevention.

Results: When Acanthamoeba infection occurred, patients' home water systems were frequently (54%) found to be colonised by this amoeba. Patients more frequently washed their storage cases in tap water than controls (P<0.05) with resulting contamination, kept storage cases wet rather than air drying them (P<0.05), and had coliform bacteria cultured from the storage case (P<0.05) and had viable Acanthamoeba within the storage case (P<0.0001). Overall, patients were found to have significantly more risk factors than controls (P<0.0001). The noncompliant use of chlorine tablet disinfection, or failure to disinfect contact lenses at all, was associated with increased risk (P<0.05). Ionic high water content contact lenses (FDA group 4 material), when used without disinfection or with non-compliant use of low chlorine (Soflab) tablet-based disinfection, were associated with increased risk of Acanthamoeba infection (P<0.05). In log-linear modelling of risky hygiene behaviours associated with contamination of storage cases with Acanthamoeba, the most significant behaviour was found to be use of the less effective disinfection methods (chlorine tablets or no disinfection). However further investigation showed that these methods were associated with an increased probability of rinsing the storage case in tap water, so that these two behaviours are confounded in the group studied.

Conclusions: Failure to disinfect contact lenses, non-compliant use of chlorine tablets and/or introduction of tap water rinsing of storage cases were associated with increased risk of Acanthamoeba infection. New multipurpose solutions and hydrogen peroxide gave the lowest risk of Acanthamoeba infection, with no statistically significant difference between them. Ionic high-water content (FDA group 4) contact lenses were at increased risk of being associated with Acanthamoeba keratitis if used without effective disinfection (multipurpose solutions or hydrogen peroxide). The use of domestic tap water for contact lens and storage case hygiene must be avoided, as a chain-of-causation' was identified from the home water supply.