Purpose: To examine the effect of propolis in a rat model of Acanthamoeba keratitis and to determine its in vitro cytotoxicity in cultured corneal epithelial cells.
Methods: Eighteen Wistar albino rats were used. Cultured corneal epithelial cells obtained from two healthy rats for in vitro cytotoxicity of propolis. Corneal stromal inoculation was performed in 16 rats with amoebic culture containing 1 × 106 amoeba/mL. Rats with Acanthamoeba keratitis 5 days later after the inoculation were divided randomly into four groups, and eight eyes of each group were treated with study drugs. The propolis, chlorhexidine (CHX), propolis plus CHX and control eyes were treated with topical propolis, 0.002% CHX, propolis plus 0.002% CHX and lubricant eye drops, respectively. The study drugs were instilled every one hour for 10 days. All eyes were examined and keratitis graded by slit-lamp biomicroscopy on days 2, 5 and 10 during the administration of the study drugs. After the completion of keratitis grading, all the 16 rats were humanely killed and their corneas were excised and used for Acanthamoeba culture to evaluate presence of Acanthamoeba growth after treatment 14 days later.
Results: Concentrations of propolis higher than 7.81 mg/mL cause damage to corneal epithelial cells in the experiment of in vitro cytotoxicity of propolis on corneal epithelial cells. The keratitis grade on day 2 in the CHX eyes was significantly lower than that in the control eyes (P < 0.05). The keratitis grades on days 5 and 10 in the propolis, CHX and propolis plus CHX eyes were significantly lower compared with those on days 5 and 10 in the control eyes (P < 0.05). In the propolis eyes, the keratitis grade on day 5 was significantly lower than that on day 2 (P < 0.05), and it was significantly lower on day 10 compared with that on day 5 (P < 0.05). In the CHX and propolis plus CHX eyes, the keratitis grade on day 10 was significantly lower compared with that on days 2 and 5 (P < 0.05). In the control eyes, there was no significant difference in the keratitis grades on days 2, 5 and 10 (P > 0.05). The culture positivity at Acanthamoeba growth after treatment experiment in the propolis, CHX and propolis plus CHX eyes was significantly lower than that in the control eyes (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: We suggest that propolis had amoebicidal properties in this rat model of Acanthamoeba keratitis. Further investigations to evaluate the antimicrobial activity of the individual fractions of the resin could yield more information about its mechanism of action in treating this disease.