Date Published:2014 Oct 16
Purpose: To investigate bilateral tear cytokine levels in patients with unilateral bacterial keratitis (BK) as associated with in vivo confocal microscopic (IVCM) alterations in corneal nerves and dendritiform immune cells (DCs). Methods: Fifty-four (13 BK, 13 contralateral, 28 healthy controls) tear samples were collected prospectively and analyzed by multiplex microbeads assay. IVCM of the central cornea was performed on the same day and assessed for corneal nerve and DC alterations Results: Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and IL-8 were significantly elevated only in affected eyes (66.6±26.8 ρg/ml, 7,174±2,430, 810±315, P=0.04, P<0.001 and P<0.001), compared to healthy controls (13.0±4.0 ρg/ml, 171.8±32.1, 56.5±33.8). CCL-2, IL-10 and IL-17a were elevated only in contralateral eyes (813±478 ρg/ml, 86.7±38.3, 3,350±881, P=0.02, P=0.01, P=0.04), compared to controls (73.7±25.3 ρg/ml, 17.5 ±4.9, 1,350±337). Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells (TREM)-1 was significantly elevated in both affected (551±231 ρg/ml, P=0.02) and contralateral unaffected eyes (545±298 ρg/ml, P=0.03), compared to controls (31.3±12.4 ρg/ml). The density of DCs was significantly increased in both affected (226.9±37.3 cells/mm2, P<0.001) and unaffected eyes (122.3±23.7 cells/mm2, P<0.001) compared to controls (22.7±5.9 cells/mm2). Subbasal nerve density significantly decreased in affected eyes (3,337±1,615 μm/mm2, P<0.001) and contralateral eyes (13,230±1,635 μm/mm2, P<0.001) compared to controls (21,200±545 μm/mm2). IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-8 were significantly correlated with DC density (R=0.40, R=0.55 and R=0.31, all P<0.02) and nerve density (R=-0.30, R=-0.53 and R=-0.39, all P<0.01). Conclusions: Pro-inflammatory tear cytokines are elevated bilaterally in patients with unilateral BK, and are correlated strongly with alterations in DCs and nerve density as detected by IVCM.