Assessing the ocular surface microbiome in severe ocular surface diseases

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Zilliox MJ, Gange WS, Kuffel G, Mores CR, Joyce C, de Bustros P, Bouchard CS
The ocular surface
Dry eye, Floppy eyelid syndrome, Microbiome, SJS, oGVHD
PURPOSE: There is growing evidence for a critical role of the microbiome in ocular health and disease. We performed a prospective, observational study to characterize the ocular surface microbiome (OSM) in four chronic ocular surface diseases (OSDs) and healthy controls. METHODS: Sterile swabs were used to collect samples from each eye of 39 patients (78 eyes). Sterile technique and multiple controls were used to assess contamination during DNA extraction, amplification and sequencing. Concurrent use of topical antibiotics, steroids, and bandage contact lenses (BCLs) was documented. RESULTS: Despite the low biomass of the ocular surface, 47/78 (60%) eyes sampled had positive sequencing reads. We observed that half of patients (8/17, 47%) had distinct microbiomes in each eye. Healthy controls had a Lactobacillus/Streptococcus mixture or significant Corynebacterium. Staphylococcus predominated in 4/7 (57%) patients with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) in at least one eye, compared to 0/10 healthy controls. Interestingly, 8/11 (73%) eyes with SJS were using BCLs, including 4/5 (80%) eyes dominated by Staphylococcus. Lax eyelid syndrome (LES) and Dry Eye Disease (DED) patients had similar OSMs, with Corynebacterium being the most prevalent bacteria. Alpha diversity was higher in controls and ocular graft-vs-host (oGVHD) patients compared to the other OSDs. CONCLUSIONS: Only 50% of the 39 patients had similar microbiomes in each eye. A majority of healthy eyes had a Lactobacillus/Streptococcus mix or Corynebacterium microbiome. Staphylococcus predominated in SJS, Lactobacillus in oGVHD, and Corynebacterium in DED and LES. There may be an association between different OSDs and the microbiome.