Researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute are working to identify the microbial community that inhabits the surface of the eye, “the ocular microbiome,” and determine its role in the development of meibomian gland dysfunction, according to a press release from the institute.
They propose that a change to the balance of this “commensal community” may lead to eyelid inflammation, changes to the composition of the eye’s tears or to the quality of meibum produced by the gland.
The Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) researchers have found that lower meibum quality and function is associated with higher numbers of commensal bacteria on the eyelids. Those diagnosed with severe meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) were found to have higher numbers of microbial colonies, and men, especially those who are older, were found to have higher counts of commensal bacteria, according to the release.
In women, the researchers found that those on the verge of menopause had higher numbers of bacteria than younger women, which correlates with worsening meibomian gland function around menopause.
It is still unknown whether the increased number of bacteria is a cause of compromised meibomian gland function or a consequence of it or other systemic factors, according to the release.
The researchers believe further investigation on the interaction of age and gender with Propionibacterium would be useful to better understand the role of the microbial community.
Also, researchers at BHVI have undertaken gene profiling to determine if particular genes are associated with MGD. They did not identify a gene that was independently associated with the condition, which would support the view of MGD as a complex disease with multiple etiological inputs, they wrote.
The research provided insight into the biological pathways and processes that affect gland function and, therefore, may provide a better understanding of how MGD develops and progresses, researchers said. – by Abigail Sutton