Contact lens-related Acanthamoeba keratitis has been associated with the use of soft contact lenses and homemade saline solutions. We studied the adherence of Acanthamoeba to unworn extended-wear soft contact lenses on a human corneal isolate of Acanthamoeba castellanii suspended in normal saline (cysts, 6.3 x 10(5)/ml; trophozoites, 3.6 x 10(5)/ml). Unworn hydrogel contact lenses (polymacon, water content 38.6%; 50 lenses, 400 lens segments) were exposed to A. castellanii cysts or trophozoites with or without stirring. After exposure for zero to seven hours, soft contact lenses were or were not washed, and the A. castellanii adherence was determined with a standardized light-microscopy technique (40 fields, ten lens segments for each count) and with scanning electron microscopy. Both cysts and trophozoites adhered to the unworn soft contact lenses. Trophozoites showed acanthopodia, lobopodia, and filopodia. This study indicates that both A. castellanii cysts and trophozoites can firmly adhere to unworn soft contact lens. Such adherence may play a role in the pathogenesis of soft contact lens-related Acanthamoeba keratitis.