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Br J Ophthalmol. 2018 Dec;102(12):1621-1628. doi: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2018-312544. Epub 2018 Sep 19.

Acanthamoeba keratitis: confirmation of the UK outbreak and a prospective case-control study identifying contributing risk factors.

Author information

School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Centre for Vision Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Westmead, Australia.
Corneal and External Disease Service, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
EpiVision Ophthalmic Epidemiology Consultants, Penn, UK.
Corneal and External Disease Service, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK.



Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is a chronic debilitating corneal infection principally affecting contact lens (CL) users. Studies were designed to test claims that the UK incidence may have increased in 2012-2014 and to evaluate potential causes.


Annualised incidence data were collected from January 1984 to December 2016. Case-control study subjects were recruited between 14 April 2011 and 05 June 2017. Reusable CL users with AK were recruited retrospectively and prospectively. Controls were reusable CL users, recruited prospectively, with any disorder other than AK. Multivariable analysis of questionnaire data measured independent risk factors for AK.


The current outbreak of AK started in 2010-2011 with an incidence threefold higher than in 2004-2009. Risk factors for AK were: Oxipol disinfection, CLs made of group IV CL materials, poor CL hygiene, deficient hand hygiene, use of CLs while swimming or bathing, being white British, and for those in social classes 4-9.


AK is a largely preventable disease. The current outbreak is unlikely to be due to any one of the identified risk factors in isolation. Improving CL and hand hygiene, avoiding CLs contamination with water and use of effective CL disinfection solutions, or daily disposable CLs, will reduce the incidence of AK. In the longer-term, water avoidance publicity for CL users can be expected to reduce the incidence further. Ongoing surveillance of AK numbers will identify changes in incidence earlier. Evaluation of Acanthamoeba contamination in end-user drinking water would contribute to our understanding of regional variations in the risk of exposure.


Acanthamoeba keratitis; contact lens; epidemiology; infection

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interest statement: CooperVision UK, one of whose products has been identified by this study as a risk factor contributing to the development of Acanthamoeba keratitis, funded the recruitment of the second set of controls. This was to verify the findings of the first set as there was a perception that the selection of these may have been biased. This did not prove to be the case and the company has since phased out the product. CooperVision did not influence the study design. Representatives of CooperVision reviewed the manuscript but made no changes other than clarifications and grammatical changes.

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