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Molecular Virology & Microbiology - Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research

Houston, Texas

A BCM research lab.
Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology
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Project: Occular Surface Microbiome Project

University Association: Baylor College of Medicine
Collaborator Name: Dan B. Jones, M.D. and Stephen C. Pflugfelder, M.D.

The microbiota that colonize the human eye during health and disease are poorly understood.

The first objective of this research is to define the microbiome in healthy eyes of males and females in childhood and adulthood. We anticipate that the microbiome may change with aging.

Our second objective is to evaluate the effects of contact lens wear on the microbiome. Contact lenses are the major risk factor for developing microbial infections in the cornea; however, the mechanisms responsible for the increased susceptibility of contact lens wearing eyes to microbial infection are not fully understood.

We also plan to evaluate the microbiome in eyes with microbial keratitis and to use molecular methods to identify the infecting organism and the pattern of antimicrobial resistance genes. Finally, we plan to compare the microbiome in patients with different types of dry eye conditions with control subjects of similar age. Changes in the ocular surface microbiome may trigger the chronic ocular surface inflammation that develops in these eyes.

Hypotheses generated from these studies will be tested in the future by infecting the ocular surface of germ-free mice with the microbes identified in these preliminary studies.

This project will utilize clinical facilities the Hamill Cornea Clinic for patient recruitment and sampling, and laboratory facilities at the Sid Richardson Microbiology Laboratory in the Cullen Eye Institute and the Baylor College of Medicine CMMR. Funds from the Hamill Foundation will also support this project.