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J Clin Microbiol. 2001 Apr;39(4):1477-86.

Resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates to hydrogel contact lens disinfection correlates with cytotoxic activity.

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Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.


One of the most common pathogens in infection of hydrogel contact lens wearers is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can gain access to the eye via contamination of the lens, lens case, and lens care solutions. Only one strain per species is used in current regulatory testing for the marketing of chemical contact lens disinfectants. The aim of this study was to determine whether P. aeruginosa strains vary in their susceptibility to hydrogel contact lens disinfectants. A method for rapidly screening bacterial susceptibility to contact lens disinfectants was developed, based on measurement of the MIC. The susceptibility of 35 P. aeruginosa isolates to two chemical disinfectants was found to vary among strains. MICs ranged from 6.25 to 100% for both disinfectants at 37 degrees C, and a number of strains were not inhibited by a 100% disinfectant concentration in the lens case environment at room temperature (22 degrees C). Resistance to disinfection appeared to be an inherent rather than acquired trait, since some resistant strains had been isolated prior to the introduction of the disinfectants and some susceptible P. aeruginosa strains could not be made more resistant by repeated disinfectant exposure. A number of P. aeruginosa strains which were comparatively more resistant to short-term disinfectant exposure also demonstrated the ability to grow to levels above the initial inoculum in one chemical disinfectant after long-term (24 to 48 h) disinfectant exposure. Resistance was correlated with acute cytotoxic activity toward corneal epithelial cells and with exsA, which encodes a protein that regulates cytotoxicity via a complex type III secretion system. These results suggest that chemical disinfection solutions may select for contamination with cytotoxic strains. Further investigation of the mechanisms and factors responsible for resistance may also lead to strategies for reducing adverse responses to contact lens wear.

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