Turns out you can’t just put a piece of plastic in your eye every day and expect everything to stay the same. New research shows that wearing contact lenses could significantly change the bacteria of the eye’s surface, making it more susceptible to infection.
Scientists from New York University’s School of Medicine presented this work Sunday at the American Society for Microbiology’s annual meeting. The study has been submitted, and the researchers are waiting to hear back on publication. They analyzed swabs from nine contact-wearers and 11 non-wearers to determine the number and type of bacterial species that lived on the surface of their eyes—the eye’s microbiome. The researchers also analyzed the bacteria on the skin just below the eye.
In people who wore contacts, the surface of the eye was much more similar in its bacterial makeup to the skin under the eye, while in non-contact wearers, the two were more differentiated. Specifically, contact-wearers had higher numbers of four species: Lactobacillus, Acinetobacter, Methylobacterium, and Pseudomonas. This microbiome disruption could explain why people who wear contacts are more likely to get some kinds of eye infections, including corneal ulcers, which, incidentally, have been linked to Pseudomonas bacteria.