Pathogenesis of microbial keratitis

Microb Pathog. 2017 Mar;104:97-109. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2016.12.013. Epub 2016 Dec 18.


Microbial keratitis is a sight-threatening ocular infection caused by bacteria, fungi, and protist pathogens. Epithelial defects and injuries are key predisposing factors making the eye susceptible to corneal pathogens. Among bacterial pathogens, the most common agents responsible for keratitis include Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus pneumonia and Serratia species. Fungal agents of corneal infections include both filamentous as well as yeast, including Fusarium, Aspergillus, Phaeohyphomycetes, Curvularia, Paecilomyces, Scedosporium and Candida species, while in protists, Acanthamoeba spp. are responsible for causing ocular disease. Clinical features include redness, pain, tearing, blur vision and inflammation but symptoms vary depending on the causative agent. The underlying molecular mechanisms associated with microbial pathogenesis include virulence factors as well as the host factors that aid in the progression of keratitis, resulting in damage to the ocular tissue. The treatment therefore should focus not only on the elimination of the culprit but also on the neutralization of virulence factors to minimize the damage, in addition to repairing the damaged tissue. A complete understanding of the pathogenesis of microbial keratitis will lead to the rational development of therapeutic interventions. This is a timely review of our current understanding of the advances made in this field in a comprehensible manner. Coupled with the recently available genome sequence information and high throughput genomics technology, and the availability of innovative approaches, this will stimulate interest in this field.

Keywords: Bacteria; Cornea; Keratitis; Protist; Yeast.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / physiology
  • Animals
  • Bacteria
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Fungi / physiology
  • Humans
  • Keratitis / diagnosis
  • Keratitis / etiology*
  • Keratitis / therapy