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Eye (Lond). 1995;9 ( Pt 1):102-9.

Biofilm-related infections in ophthalmology.

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Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, UK.


A biofilm is a functional consortium of microorganisms organised within an extensive exopolymer matrix. Organisms within a biofilm are difficult to eradicate by conventional antimicrobial therapy and can cause indolent infections. This paper reviews the pathophysiology of biofilms and their application of ophthalmology. Under certain environmental conditions such as nutrient limitation, some bacteria may secrete and reside in an exopolysaccharide glycocalyx polymer. This confers relative protection from humoral and cellular immunity, antibiotics and surfactants. Biofilms occur in natural aquatic ecosystems, on ship hulls, in pipelines and on the surface of biomaterials. They cause clinical infections of prosthetic hip joints, heart valves and catheters. Biofilm formation may occur rapidly on contact lenses and their cases and hence contribute to the pathogenesis of keratitis. Formation of biofilms is also implicated in delayed post-operative endophthalmitis and crystalline keratopathy. Bacteria within biofilms are 20-1000 times less sensitive to antibiotic than free-living planktonic organisms. Existing experimental methods for modifying biofilm include the use of macrolide antibiotics that specifically impair biofilm production, and the use of enzymes to digest it. These may have clinical applications, as potential adjunctive therapies to antibiotic treatment, for these resistant infections. In conclusion, biofilm is an important cause of infections associated with biomaterials. Novel strategies are needed to deal with these.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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