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Microsporidia Infection of the Cornea—A Unique and Challenging Disease

Garg, Prashant MD

doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e3182a2c91f

Abstract: Microsporidia are a diverse group of obligate, intracellular, eukaryotic, spore-forming parasites. Traditionally, these were considered as protozoans but recently have been reclassified as fungi. Microsporidia behave as opportunistic pathogens causing systemic infections. In the eye, Microsporidia cause keratoconjunctivitis, corneal stromal keratitis, scleritis, and endophthalmitis. This review shares our experiences with anterior segment infections caused by this pathogen. Keratoconjunctivitis is a common form of ocular infection caused by the parasite. Although early reports described it as occurring only in immunosuppressed individuals, it can also occur in immunocompetent individuals. The disease shows a seasonal pattern with a peak incidence during the rainy season. Although several drugs have been considered, our experience suggests that keratoconjunctivitis is a self-limiting disease. In contrast to keratoconjunctivitis, stromal keratitis is an ill-defined disease. We collected 30 cases and analyzed the various aspects of this disease. Stromal keratitis is characterized by a slowly progressive course. The corneal picture resembles herpes simplex virus stromal keratitis or fungal keratitis cases, and is characterized by deep stromal infiltrates with overlying and surrounding stromal edema and keratic precipitates. The diagnosis of Microsporidia infection is confirmed by a microscopic examination of smears from patients with ulcerative keratitis or by a histopathological examination of corneal tissues. Definitive genus identification requires the examination of specimens by electron microscopy or by molecular methods. In the absence of a definitive medical treatment, nearly all patients require surgical treatment. The confusion regarding Microsporidia is not only limited to their classification but also extends to various aspects of the corneal disease caused by them.

Cornea and Anterior Segment Services, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, India.

Reprints: Prashant Garg, Cornea and Anterior Segment Services, Kallam Anji Reddy Campus, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500 034, India (e-mail:

The author has received payment for consultancy services (from Bausch & Lomb, NovaBay Pharma). This study was partly funded by the Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation, Hyderabad, India.

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