Dry eye is a common ocular surface disease of multifactorial etiology characterized by elevated tear osmolality and inflammation leading to a disrupted ocular surface. The latter is a risk factor for ocular surface infection, yet overt infection is not commonly seen clinically in the typical dry eye patient. This suggests that important innate mechanisms operate to protect the dry eye from invading pathogens. This article reviews the current literature on epidemiology of ocular surface infection in dry eye patients and laboratory-based studies on innate immune mechanisms operating at the ocular surface and their alterations in human dry eye and animal models. The review highlights current understanding of innate immunity in dry eye and identifies gaps in our knowledge to help direct future studies to further unravel the complexities of dry eye disease and its sequelae.
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