Are antimicrobial coatings the future for contact lenses?

In the future, antimicrobial coatings on contact lenses could make lens-related infections a thing of the past.

These coatings, designed to reduce inflammation and cases of infection, might be possible with the use of melimine, developed at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) as an antimicrobial for biomaterials.

"Melimine is an excellent candidate for development as an antimicrobial coating."

"Infection associated with the use of biomaterials remains a major barrier to the long-term use of medical devices," UNSW researchers noted when they announced the new coating material in a 2008 Journal of Applied Microbiology article. "The antimicrobial peptide melimine is an excellent candidate for development as an antimicrobial coating for such devices."

Those devices include contact lenses. Debarun Dutta, a Ph.D. candidate at the Brien Holden Vision Institute and the UNSW School of Optometry, works with melimine coating in his research. He noted that it has proven to be effective against various ocular pathogens including bacteria, fungi and Acanthamoeba. The coating is heat stable and does not alter the physical dimensions of contact lenses. Additionally, the coating is wettable, but not toxic to mammalian cells.

The American Optometric Foundation (AOF) recently honored Dutta with a prestigious Ezell Fellowship to facilitate his work.

Less danger, more potential use

Fortunately, the risk of infection with contact lens wear is rare. It occurs in only four in 10,000 daily wear and 20 in 10,000 extended wear contact lens users annually. However, severe infections can lead to vision loss. That danger provides real motivation to develop safer contact lenses, the AOF noted.

Development of antimicrobial coatings could be a major boon to the contact lens industry. There are some 140 million contact lens wearers worldwide today. However, concern over inflammation and infection is generally considered a major barrier to the expanded use of contact lenses, according to the Holden Institute.

October 14, 2013

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