Purpose: To compare the relative diagnostic value of confocal microscopy and superficial corneal cultures in the diagnosis of Acanthamoeba keratitis by using clinical and microbiologic definitions of disease.
Methods: Results of confocal microscopy, superficial corneal smear, and superficial corneal culture were analyzed for validity against 2 different microbiologic and a clinical composite standard for Acanthamoeba keratitis.
Results: In patients with both clinical characteristics and objective evidence of Acanthamoeba keratitis, confocal microscopy exhibited a sensitivity of 90.6% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 79.3%-96.9%) and a specificity of 100% (95% CI: 95.0%-100%). In patients with either positive culture or smear evidence of Acanthamoeba keratitis, confocal microscopy showed a sensitivity of 90.9% (95% CI: 78.3%-97.5%) and specificity of 90.1% (95% CI: 81.5%-95.6%). In strictly culture-positive patients, confocal microscopy showed a sensitivity of 92.9% (95% CI: 76.5%-99.1%) and a specificity of 77.3% (95% CI: 67.7%-85.2%). Of the 53 patients with Acanthamoeba keratitis, confocal microscopy was positive in 48 patients, whereas corneal smears and cultures were positive in 30 of 41 and 23 of 42 patients, respectively. Sensitivity of Acanthamoeba culture was 52.8% (95% CI: 38.6%-66.7%) in patients with a clinical diagnosis of Acanthamoeba keratitis. Simultaneous testing of smear and superficial corneal scraping resulted in a sensitivity of 83.0% (95% CI: 70.2%-91.9%), independent of the results of confocal microscopy.
Conclusions: As confocal microscopy comes into wider clinical use, it remains in need of clinical and pathologic correlation. When performed and interpreted by an experienced operator, confocal microscopy is both sensitive and specific in the diagnosis of Acanthamoeba keratitis. Contemporaneous corneal scrapings are independently sensitive in the detection of Acanthamoeba keratitis, and a combination of both diagnostic modalities offers the highest likelihood of rapidly and accurately diagnosing Acanthamoeba keratitis in patients with atypical keratitis.