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Infect Immun. 2007 May;75(5):2325-32. Epub 2007 Feb 26.

Human tear fluid protects against Pseudomonas aeruginosa keratitis in a murine experimental model.

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  • 1School of Optometry, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-2020, USA.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa keratitis is an acute sight-threatening infection. We previously reported that human tear fluid could protect individual human corneal epithelial cells in vitro against invasion by and cytotoxicity due to clinical and laboratory isolates of P. aeruginosa and that the protective mechanism was independent of bacteriostatic activity. In the present study, we examined the effects of human tear fluid in vivo. Tears were collected from healthy human volunteers and were studied in vivo in mice. The effects on the virulence of both invasive and cytotoxic clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa were examined. Tear fluid was found to reduce the severity of disease when corneas were challenged with cytotoxic bacteria immediately after scratch injury, and it completely protected against susceptibility to infection by a cytotoxic strain in a model in which corneas were infected during the healing process 6 h after scratching. Visible protection correlated with the inhibition of bacterial colonization 1, 4, and 48 h postinoculation. Tear fluid also significantly reduced the severity of infections caused by invasive P. aeruginosa in the 6-h-healing model. This result also coincided with significantly reduced bacterial colonization at 48 h. In vitro, human tear fluid significantly reduced the ability of invasive and cytotoxic bacteria to translocate across corneal epithelia and increased transepithelial resistance with or without bacterial inoculation. These data show that human tear fluid can protect against P. aeruginosa corneal infection in vivo and that the mechanism likely involves enhanced epithelial barrier function in addition to protection of individual epithelial cells against bacterial internalization and cytotoxicity.

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