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Most of us have heard about intestinal microbiomes, but researchers found that eyes have their own bacteria presence as well. Dr. St. Leger discusses his findings, such as:

  • The part of the eye that works as a niche for the beneficial bacteria.
  • The roles elements like tears and dry eye play in this microecology.
  • Future therapies researchers hope to initiate based on these findings as they better understand eye microbiome and disease.

Anthony St. Leger is an assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. About three years ago, he and his lab found the presence of bacteria in a mouse’s diseased eye that seemed to serve the same function as the bacteria we have in our intestinal tract. In other words, these bacteria appeared to modulate the susceptibility to infectious disease and immunity. This prompted a more intensive study to understand more fully the purpose for its stable coexistence with the eye.

Dr. St. Leger explains that the bacteria is only present under the eyelid. The rest of the eye, especially the center, is bacteria free, but the area under the lid seems to support this niche ecology of beneficial bacteria. After he and his lab were given permission to use isolates from numerous past patients at the university clinic, they found that the mouse and human eye had enough similarity in a bacterium that researchers could apply what they learned from the mouse eye to the human eye.

Therefore, these researchers hope to use their studies to see if these bacteria can be beneficial drug carriers and offer other solutions regarding eye microbiome and disease, including pro-biotic-like therapies. 

For more information and links to Dr. St. Leger’s papers, see his lab’s web page at http://ophthalmology.pitt.edu/people/anthony-st-leger-phd

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