Common Eye Drugs Can Lead to Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic overexposure through common eye treatments leading to antibiotic resistance

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The development of antibiotic resistance from overexposure to antibiotics has been a growing concern for both patients and doctors in recent years.

A new study shows the problem isn't restricted to general antibiotics. In fact, the use of topical antibiotics after eye injections has ophthalmologists concerned.

"Use antibiotics exactly as prescribed, and always complete the course."

Dr. Stephen Kim, an  assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences for the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, said that the use of topical antibiotics is promoting antimicrobial resistance and causing the emergence of resistant strains. He said that the finding is relevant to all practicing doctors and applicable to everyone.

He also urged additional thought before using topical antibiotics on the eyes. Topical antibiotics often are used after intraocular injections to treat macular degeneration. The topical antibiotics prevent eye infections including endophthalmitis, which can result in severe and permanent vision loss.

The injections are one of the fastest growing procedures in ophthalmology with more than 1 million injections performed in the United States in 2008.

Researchers studied 24 patients undergoing intravitreal injection treatments for macular degeneration. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four ophthalmic antibiotics to be used after each injection in the treated eye. The patient’s other eye was not exposed to antibiotics.

The patients were then followed for one year. Before the first injection and throughout the study period, investigators performed conjunctival (the tissue inside the eyelids and around the eyeball) cultures of both eyes. During the study period they also took cultures of the nasopharynx on the same side of the treated eye.

Preliminary findings published in the December 2010 issue of Ophthalmology, showed substantial baseline resistance patterns. Dr. Kim said the antibiotic resistance could promote the emergence of super bugs with resistance to multiple antibiotics.

Dr. Christopher Quinn, an optometrist from Omni Eye Associates, said that doctors are always concerned about antibiotic resistance, especially with the increasing use of antibiotics to protect against infection.

"This study serves as an appropriate reminder to physicians that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics should be avoided to reduce the risk of the increasing emergence of resistant bacteria," Dr. Quinn said.

The clinical research was recently published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

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Review Date: 
September 25, 2011
Last Updated:
September 27, 2011