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Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2007 Mar-Apr;14(2):61-9.

Microbial keratitis in South India: influence of risk factors, climate, and geographical variation.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Aravind Eye Hospital & Postgraduate Institute of Ophthalmology, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, South India.



To determine the influence of risk factors, climate, and geographical variation on the microbial keratitis in South India.


A retrospective analysis of all clinically diagnosed infective keratitis presenting between September 1999 and August 2002 was performed. A standardised form was filled out for each patient, documenting sociodemographic features and information pertaining to risk factors. Corneal scrapes were collected and subjected to culture and microscopy.


A total of 3,183 consecutive patients with infective keratitis were evaluated, of which 1,043 (32.77%) were found to be of bacterial aetiology, 1,095 (34.4%) were fungal, 33 (1.04%) were Acanthamoeba, 76 (2.39%) were both fungal and bacterial, and the remaining 936 (29.41%) were found to be culture negative. The predominant bacterial and fungal pathogens isolated were Streptococcus pneumoniae (35.95%) and Fusarium spp. (41.92%), respectively. Most of the patients (66.84%) with fungal keratitis were between 21 and 50 years old, and 60.21% of the patients with bacterial keratitis were older than 50 (p < 0.0001) (95% CI: 5.19-7.19). A majority of patients (64.75%) with fungal keratitis were agricultural workers (p < 0.0001) [odds ratio (OR): 1.4; 95% CI: 1.19-1.61], whereas bacterial keratitis occurred more commonly (57.62%) in nonagricultural workers (p < 0.0001) (OR: 2.88; 95% CI: 2.47-3.36). Corneal injury was identified in 2,256 (70.88%) patients, and it accounted for 92.15% in fungal keratitis (p < 0.0001) (OR: 7.7; 95% CI: 6.12-9.85) and 100% in Acanthamoeba keratitis. Injuries due to vegetative matter (61.28%) were identified as a significant cause for fungal keratitis (p < 0.0001) (OR: 23.6; 95% CI: 19.07-29.3) and due to mud (84.85%) for Acanthamoeba keratitis (p < 0.0001) (OR: 26.01; 95% CI: 3.3-6.7). Coexisting ocular diseases predisposing to bacterial keratitis accounted for 68.17% (p < 0.0001) (OR: 33.99; 95% CI: 27.37-42.21). The incidence of fungal keratitis was higher between June and September, and bacterial keratitis was less during this period.


The risk of agricultural predominance and vegetative corneal injury in fungal keratitis and associated ocular diseases in bacterial keratitis increase susceptibility to corneal infection. A hot, windy climate makes fungal keratitis more frequent in tropical zones, whereas bacterial keratitis is independent of seasonal variation and frequent in temperate zones. Microbial pathogens show geographical variation in their prevalence. Thus, the spectrum of microbial keratitis varies with geographical location influenced by the local climate and occupational risk factors.

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