Background The cause of the chronic inflammation in atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC), the ocular manifestation of atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome, is largely unknown.
Objective To investigate the possibility that microorganisms may be important in the inflammatory activity in AKC.
Methods Fifteen patients with AKC participated in the study. The presence of aerobic bacteria and fungi was related to the severity of clinical signs, the numbers of inflammatory cells in tears and conjunctival biopsies, and the concentration of various cytokines in tears. In addition, serological evidence for IgE sensitization to Staphylococcus aureus B antigen and Malassezia sympodialis antigen was investigated. Twelve healthy subjects were included for control purposes.
Results The patients exhibited moderate clinical signs of AKC. No relation was found between the severity of AKC and the presence of microorganisms, despite the fact that S. aureus was frequently isolated. AKC patients showed significantly higher levels of IFN-γ, TNF-α (tumour necrosis factor-α), IL-2, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-10 than controls. An association was found between conjunctival signs and the levels of all cytokines except IL-5.
Conclusion We found no evidence to suggest that periocular and ocular microcolonization are related to inflammatory parameters in AKC. However, confirmation of the present results in a longitudinal study with repeated clinical examinations and samplings in the same individual is required before the contribution of S. aureus to on-going inflammation in AKC can be dismissed.