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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2018 Aug 1;59(10):4268-4276. doi: 10.1167/iovs.18-24651.

Identification and Visualization of a Distinct Microbiome in Ocular Surface Conjunctival Tissue.

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School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
Department of Genomic and Applied Microbiology, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.



Knowledge of whether microorganisms reside in protected niches of the conjunctiva is potentially significant in terms of minimizing risks of contact lens inflammation/infection and endophthalmitis. We define if and how microbial communities from limbal and forniceal conjunctival tissue differ from those on the conjunctival surface.


Human limbal and forniceal conjunctival tissue was obtained from 23 patients undergoing pterygium surgery and analyzed with data from a recent study of conjunctival surface swabs (n = 45). Microbial communities were analyzed by extracting total DNA from tissue samples and surface swabs and sequencing the 16S rRNA gene using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Sequences were quality filtered, clustered into operational taxonomic units (OTUs) at 97% similarity. OTUs associated with blank extraction and sampling negative controls were removed before analysis. Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was performed on cyrosections of limbal and forniceal conjunctival tissue.


There was a significant difference in bacterial community structure between the conjunctival surface and fornix (P = 0.001) and limbus (P = 0.001) tissue. No difference was found in bacterial communities between the limbus and fornix (P = 0.764). Fornix and limbal samples were dominated by OTUs classified to the genus Pseudomonas (relative abundance 79.9%), which were found only in low relative abundances on conjunctival surfaces (6.3%). Application of FISH showed the presence of Pseudomonas in the forniceal tissue sample.


There is a discrete tissue-associated microbiome in freshly-collected human limbal and fornix tissue, which is different from the microbial community structure and composition of the ocular surface microbiome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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