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Br J Ophthalmol. 2005 Sep;89(9):1097-9.

Topical ocular antibiotics induce bacterial resistance at extraocular sites.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, F I Proctor Foundation, 95 Kirkham Street, Room 307, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0944, USA.



To compare the prevalence of antibiotic resistance found in nasopharyngeal Streptococcus pneumoniae between villages treated with topical tetracycline or systemic azithromycin as part of a trachoma control programme.


All children aged 1-10 years were offered either single dose oral azithromycin treatment (20 mg/kg) or a course of topical 1% tetracycline ointment, depending on the area. Treatment was given annually for 3 years. Six months after the third annual treatment in each village, children were surveyed for nasopharyngeal carriage of S pneumoniae and resistance was determined using broth dilution MIC technique. Children in two additional villages, which had not yet been treated, were also surveyed.


Nasopharyngeal carriage of S pneumoniae was similar in the tetracycline treated, azithromycin treated, and untreated areas (p=0.57). However, resistance to tetracycline and azithromycin was distributed differently between the three areas (p=0.004). The village treated with topical tetracycline had a higher prevalence of tetracycline resistance than the other villages (p=0.010), while the oral azithromycin treated village had a higher prevalence of macrolide resistance than the other villages (p=0.014).


Annual mass treatment with oral azithromycin may alter the prevalence of drug resistant S pneumoniae in a community. Surprisingly, topical tetracycline may also increase nasopharyngeal pneumococcal resistance. Topical antibiotics may have an effect on extraocular bacterial resistance.

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