The study, which appeared in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, was performed at Yonsei University College of Medicine, in South Korea. It examined the risk of infection in 105 patients by taking swabs of their eye surfaces (conjunctivas) just before LASIK or a related form of eye surgery to measure the preexisting incidence of bacteria.
Several species of staphylococcus bacteria were found in 84.9 percent of the cultures grown from the swab samples, and 31.4 percent were resistant to the advanced antibiotic methicillin. In other measurements of bacterial incidence over the past 10 years, scientists have found antibiotic-resistant staph only 2 percent of the time.
This spectacular increase may mean that resistant bacteria are spreading not only through hospital infections but through person-to-person contact in the community. Public health officials worldwide have become concerned over the community-based spread of dangerous infections of staph, especially the infamous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Lead researcher Kyoung Yul Seo and his colleagues experimented with five fluoroquinolone antibiotics (three newer-generation and two older) to see which were most effective against the bacteria in their cultures. The most successful was the newest one approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Using the newer fluoroquinolones as an initial treatment prior to LASIK procedures, Seo reasoned, may limit the germs’ ability to produce antibiotic-resistant mutations.
“Since resistant [staph] is now widespread, it makes sense to develop ophthalmic agents using the newest fluroquinolones and to consider their use after refractive surgery to attempt to reduce infections,” Seo said. Refractive surgery is surgery that improves the light-bending capacity of the eye, allowing it to focus light better on the retina for improved vision.