UVA-riboflavin photochemical therapy of bacterial keratitis: a pilot study

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2012 Jan;250(1):95-102. doi: 10.1007/s00417-011-1754-1. Epub 2011 Aug 27.


Background: The aim of this work as to investigate the photochemical interaction used in corneal crosslinking (CXL) as the primary therapy for bacterial keratitis.

Methods: A prospective non-randomized study was conducted including 16 patients with a clinical diagnosis of bacterial keratitis. No patient had any prior antibiotic treatment for the current infection. Photography and microbial culturing of the infected cornea were performed. Riboflavin was topically administered for 20 min and ultraviolet light (UVA) exposure settings for treatment of keratoconus were used. After the procedure, clinical examinations were done at least once daily until signs of improvement had been established. The frequency of examinations was thereafter reduced. Antibiotic therapy was initiated if infectious progression was suspected. The trial was registered at ISCRTN.org (no: 21432643).

Results: All eyes responded to the photochemical treatment with improvement in symptoms and signs of reduced inflammation. Epithelial healing was achieved in all cases. Antibiotic administration was necessary in two cases. One patient required a human amniotic membrane transplant.

Conclusions: This trial illustrates that photosensitization of riboflavin using UVA at 365 nm has the potential to induce healing in patients with microbial keratitis. The results from the treatment of these 16 patients with corneal ulcers indicate that UVA-riboflavin photochemical therapy merits a controlled study in order to assess its efficacy and safety compared to antibiotics.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Conjunctiva / microbiology
  • Cornea / microbiology
  • Corneal Ulcer / drug therapy*
  • Corneal Ulcer / microbiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Riboflavin / therapeutic use*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Riboflavin