Background: Impression cytology is a non invasive technique for the diagnosis of external eye disease. As infected epithelial cells are losing their adhesion to neighbouring cells they are an ideal target for impression cytology. Despite its diagnostic potential impression cytology has not yet become a routine diagnostic tool because of technical inconvenience in use of conventional membranes. The aim of this study was to evaluate a practicable technique of impression cytology for the rapid diagnosis of superficial viral eye disease.
Material and methods: 52 patients with suspected viral conjunctivitis or keratitis underwent impression cytology with a Biopore membrane device. After air fixation immunologic detection tests using either peroxidase antiperoxidase or fluorescent techniques were performed directly on the membrane.
Results and conclusions: 21 of 38 patients with suspected Herpes-simplex-virus (HSV), 3 of 4 patients with suspected Varicella-Zoster-virus (VZV) and 2 of 10 patients with suspected Adenovirus infection had a positive result on the impression cytology membrane. These results were confirmed by virus cultures or polymerase chain reactions (PCR) a few days later. No patient with a negative impression cytology had a positive culture result. Using impression cytology and an immunodetection test results became available within 1 to 4 hours.
Conclusions: Impression cytology combined with immunologic detection tests is a rapid, sensitive and practicable diagnostic test for superficial viral eye diseases.