Successful medical therapy of Acanthamoeba keratitis with topical chlorhexidine and propamidine

Eye (Lond). 1996:10 ( Pt 4):413-21. doi: 10.1038/eye.1996.92.


Introduction: Following laboratory studies on new potential chemotherapy for Acanthamoeba keratitis, when chlorhexidine and propamidine provided an additive in vitro effect, a series of 12 patients with culture-proven Acanthamoeba keratitis from three UK centres was monitored during and after therapy.

Methods: In all cases the clinical diagnosis was confirmed by amoebal culture. In some instances identification of the protozoa by direct microscopy of corneal tissue was possible. The medication was provided topically in drop form until the keratitis had resolved. In vitro sensitivity to chlorhexidine and propamidine was performed on all isolates and compared with sensitivity to a range of other drugs used for treatment of the infection.

Results: In vitro drug testing confirmed that trophozoites and cysts of all 12 Acanthamoeba isolates were fully sensitive to chlorhexidine and propamidine. Therapy was satisfactory for controlling and eradicating the acanthamoebal infection in all patients. Three patients developed discrete stromal infiltration at the site of infection that resolved 1 week after commencing therapy, with or without use of steroids. Two patients developed a late inflammatory effect in the stromal scar at 6 months, which resolved with steroids. No clinical evidence of chlorhexidine toxicity was found in any patients.

Conclusions: The combination of topical chlorhexidine and propamidine was very effective for treating Acanthamoeba keratitis provided the drugs were continued for a sufficient period. No drug toxicity or resistance of Acanthamoeba isolates was observed in the 12 treated patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Acanthamoeba / isolation & purification
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis / drug therapy*
  • Acanthamoeba Keratitis / pathology
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzamidines / adverse effects
  • Benzamidines / therapeutic use*
  • Chlorhexidine / adverse effects
  • Chlorhexidine / therapeutic use
  • Contact Lenses
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiological Techniques
  • Middle Aged


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Benzamidines
  • propamidine isethionate
  • Chlorhexidine