Health & Views – October 2019 2nd issue – By Harold Gunatillake
Health & Views: Health Newsletter for the Sri Lankans & others , globally
October 2019 2nd issue
Why So Many Bacteria Live on the Surface of Your Eye
By Tony St. Leger, University of Pittsburgh
You may be familiar with the idea that your gut and skin are home to a collection of microbes — fungi, bacteria and viruses — that are vital for keeping you healthy. But did
you know that your eyes also host a unique menagerie of microbes? Together, they’re called the eye microbiome. When these microbes are out of balance — too many or
too few of certain types — eye diseases may emerge.
With a recent study showing bacteria live on the surface of the eye and stimulate protective immunity, scientists are beginning to discover the microbial factors that can be
exploited to create innovative therapies for a range of eye disorders like Dry Eye Disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome and corneal scarring. One day it may be possible to
engineer bacteria to treat eye diseases in humans.
I’m an immunologist studying how the eye prevents infection. I became interested in this field because humans get only two eyes, and understanding how bacteria affect immunity
may be the key to avoiding up to 1 million visits to the doctor for eye infections and save US$174 million per year in the U.S. alone. Only recently have scientists found the human
eye has its own microbiome.