Pharmacokinetic considerations in the treatment of bacterial keratitis

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1994 Aug;27(2):129-49. doi: 10.2165/00003088-199427020-00005.


The eye is relatively impermeable to micro-organisms and other environmental elements. However, if corneal integrity is breached by trauma, a sight-threatening bacterial infection can result. Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the most common bacterial pathogens associated with infection of compromised corneas. Bacterial enzymes and toxins, as well as factors associated with the host immune response, can lead to tissue destruction during corneal infection. For successful therapy, an antibacterial agent must be active against the pathogen and must be able to overcome the permeability barrier of the cornea. Topical application of antibacterial agents adequately delivers drugs to the cornea and aqueous humour. However, drug concentrations at the site of infection are not always sufficient to rapidly kill infective organisms. Infections with antibiotic-resistant strains present an even greater therapeutic challenge. In addition, sterilisation of the cornea by antibacterial agents does not eliminate inflammation and corneal scarring that accompany infection. Steroidal and non-steroidal antiinflammatory agents limit corneal scarring during experimentally induced bacterial keratitis. However, although promising, concomitant use of these drugs with antibacterial agents remains controversial. Two ocular drug delivery systems that provide high and sustained concentrations of drug to ocular tissues are corneal collagen shields and transcorneal iontophoresis. The collagen shield, originally designed as a bandage lens, prolongs drug contact with the cornea. Chemotherapeutic studies of experimental bacterial keratitis demonstrate that shields hydrated with antibacterial agents reduce bacteria in the cornea as well as or better than frequent applications of fortified antibacterial drops. Transcorneal iontophoresis uses an electric current to drive charged drugs into the cornea. In experimentally induced bacterial keratitis, transcorneal iontophoresis of antibacterial agents is superior to topically administered ocular drops for reducing the numbers of bacteria in the cornea. Although both drug delivery systems appear to be well tolerated and nontoxic in animal models, clinical trials in patients are required to determine the usefulness of these drug delivery systems in clinical trials. Based on present experimental results, future therapy of bacterial keratitis will involve efficient drug delivery devices, the use of new antibacterial agents or combinations of presently available antibacterial agents, and careful use of adjuvant anti-inflammatory agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Collagen
  • Drug Carriers
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis
  • Keratitis / drug therapy*
  • Keratitis / microbiology
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Pseudomonas Infections / drug therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Drug Carriers
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Collagen