Confocal microscopy for Nocardia keratitis

Ophthalmology. 2006 Sep;113(9):1645-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2006.03.054. Epub 2006 Jul 7.


Purpose: To assess the role of confocal microscopy for in vivo detection of Nocardia in patients with microbial keratitis.

Design: Retrospective interventional case series.

Participants: Three patients with microbiologically proven Nocardia keratitis.

Intervention: Confocal microscopy.

Methods: We performed confocal microscopy in microbiologically proven cases of Nocardia asteroides keratitis. A masked observer examined the images. For better understanding of the images, we also performed confocal microscopy on a blood agar culture plate with Nocardia growth.

Results: Confocal microscopy of infiltrated cornea revealed highly reflective, short, thin branching filaments with bright inflammatory cells in the background. The filaments were seen clearly at the edge of the infiltrate. In scans with faint images, these filaments became more visible on inversion of bright and dark components. Confocal microscopy of cultured organisms also revealed filamentous beaded structures with a morphology identical to that of those seen in vivo.

Conclusion: Nocardia, a filamentous bacterium, produces a distinct image on confocal microscopy. This in vivo examination technique may be useful in cases of deep-seated infiltrates where routine microbiology workup does not yield positive results.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amikacin / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Keratitis / diagnosis*
  • Keratitis / microbiology
  • Keratitis / therapy
  • Keratoplasty, Penetrating
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nocardia Infections / diagnosis*
  • Nocardia Infections / microbiology
  • Nocardia Infections / therapy
  • Nocardia asteroides / cytology*
  • Nocardia asteroides / isolation & purification
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Amikacin