Detection and Prevention of Ocular Phototoxicity of Ciprofloxacin and Other Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print: “Phototoxicity of the Skin and Eye,” in honor of Dr. Colin Chignell.

Corresponding author email: (Joan E. Roberts)


Fluoroquinolone (FLQ) drugs are a potent family of antibiotics used to treat infections including ocular infections. To determine if these antibiotics may be phototoxic to the eye, we exposed human lens epithelial cells to 0.125–1 mm FLQs (ciprofloxacin [Cipro], lomefloxacin [Lome], norfloxacin [Nor] and ofloxacin [Ofl]), the precursor quinolone nalidixic acid (Nalid) and UVA radiation (2.5 J cm−2). Based on fluorescence confocal microscopy, FLQs are diffused throughout the cytoplasm and preferentially located in the lysosomes of lens epithelial cells. Neither FLQ exposure alone nor UVA exposure alone reduced cell viability. However, with exposure to UVA radiation the FLQs studied (Cipro, Nor, Lome and Ofl) induced a phototoxic reaction that included necrosis, apoptosis, loss of cell viability as measured by MTS, and membrane damage as determined by the lactate dehydrogenase assay. Both Nalid and all FLQs studied (Cipro, Nor, Lome and Ofl) photopolymerized the lens protein α-crystallin. Phototoxic damage to lens epithelial cells and/or α-crystallin will lead to a loss of transparency of the human lens. However, if precautions are taken to filter all UV radiation from the eye while taking these antibiotics, eye damage may be prevented.