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Fungal keratitis in far north Queensland, Australia


Dr Michael RJ Thew, 573 McIntosh Creek Road, Gympie, Qld 4570, Australia. Email:


Background:  Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders form a significant proportion of the population in far north Queensland and are at increased risk for many eye conditions. This study describes the pattern of fungal keratitis seen at Cairns Base Hospital, far north Queensland, Australia.

Methods:  A retrospective review of all cases of culture positive fungal keratitis presenting between 1998 and 2008. The records of 17 patients were reviewed for epidemiological, risk factor, microbiological, treatment and outcome data.

Results:  The study included 16 eyes from 16 patients. Five (31.25%) patients were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Pre-disposing factors were ocular trauma (n = 7) and contact lens wear (n = 3). No patients were on topical steroids at presentation. All patients grew filamentous fungi with Fusarium the most common isolate (50%). Aspergillus, Curvularia and Lasiodiplodia theobromae were the next most common accounting for two cases each. Two patients developed corneal perforations, whereas two required penetrating keratoplasty and one required evisceration. Eight patients had a visual acuity of 6/18 or better at presentation and this increased to 13 patients at final follow up.

Conclusions:  A significant proportion of the patients presenting to Cairns Base Hospital with fungal keratitis are Indigenous. The very high percentage of cases due to filamentous fungi is similar to other tropical regions of the world. The very low rates of Candida infection and steroid use prior to presentation are in contrast to studies from temperate areas such as Melbourne and Philadelphia.

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