Objective: This study aimed to review the clinical features, therapeutic response, and histopathology of cases of nontuberculous mycobacterial keratitis at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.
Design and participants: Retrospective review of medical records, clinical photographs, histopathology, and microbiology of 24 cases of nontuberculous acid-fast keratitis over the past 15 years.
Results: Causal organisms included Mycobacterium chelonae (16), M. fortuitum (3), M. avium-intracellulare (2), M. nonchromogenicum (1), M. triviale (1), and M. asiaticum (1). Clinically, the keratitis had a superficial location except in those patients with a history of surgery. Amikacin was the most commonly used antibiotic (63%). Three patients were treated with Clarithromycin. In one patient, it was stopped because of toxicity; the other two had resolution of their infiltrates. Fifty-five percent did not respond to topical antimicrobial therapy. The organisms as a group were sensitive to amikacin and Clarithromycin and resistant to the fluoroquinolones. Sixty-four percent of the group that failed to respond to medical treatment were treated with steroids after the diagnosis was known, in comparison to 44% of the group treated successfully with medications. The histopathology of the patients treated with steroids showed minimal inflammation despite a large number of organisms, in contrast to the dense infiltrates seen in the specimens from patients not treated with topical steroids.
Conclusion: Nontuberculous mycobacterial keratitis is a chronic insidious infection that is often unresponsive to medical therapy. The authors recommend that steroids be withheld. Based on the authors' experience of three patients, topical Clarithromycin may hold promise as a therapeutic agent. Lamellar keratectomy or penetrating keratoplasty should be considered in those patients who do not respond to medical therapy or those who have recurrent exacerbations on attempted weaning of topical antibiotic therapy.