Tuesday, February 19, 2008

All fun and games...

...until someone loses an eye.

From John's post about horrifying parasites, I found a link to a news video about a parasite which attacks unwitting contact-lens wearers. The name of the parasite sounded familiar, and being a contact wearer myself, I did some more research:

Acanthamoeba is a group of amoeba that are common in the environment, in soil and water. Some of them are pathogenic to humans, causing encephalitis when they enter wounds, or potential blindness when they enter the eyes. The video mentions that people have gotten such infections from contaminated water coming into contact with their contact lenses (such as musician Momus).

Many sources suggest that one could contract this parasite by wearing their contacts while swimming, surfing, etc. The risk in wearing contacts while swimming is that when the parasite gets between the lens and the eye, it is protected from removal by blinking action. The incidence is low (like 1.5 cases per million people per year in the U.S.), though contact-lens wearers are at higher risk. Thats a risk I'll have to take as I definitely need my contacts when surfing, but it is something to think about in relation to the public pool (and hot tubs). The literature suggests that cleaning lenses after swimming, throwing them out, or just not wearing them are the best prevention.

I also recalled some uproar about parasites in eyewash stations in science laboratories, so did a quick search and found a few articles mentioning that yes, acanthamoeba have been cultured from eye wash stations... (and this). A huge number of eye-wash stations seem to be sources of bacteria, amoeba, and fungi. But if they are cleaned/flushed regularly, this is much less of a problem. And again, preventive measures from getting nasty chemicals in one's eyes can reduce the risk of needing to use one in the first place.

Refer to wikipedia article for a teaser of how acanthamoeba might interact with MRSA.

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