Ocular Surface Microbiome, Virome, and Pathogens in Ophthalmic Disease and Health

Investigator: Thuy Doan, MD, MPH
Sponsor: NIH Natl Eye Institute

Location(s): United States


Ocular infections remain an important cause of blindness worldwide and represent a challenging public health concern. This project takes advantage of advances in next-generation sequencing to enhance our understanding of the causes of ocular infections by characterizing the bacterial and viral communities of the ocular surface. These studies have the potential to improve the current diagnostic paradigm and guide targeted interventions for ocular infections.

Infectious uveitis and ocular infections are a major cause of ocular morbidity and blindness worldwide. While timely and accurate diagnosis is crucial for improved visual outcomes, a definitive diagnosis is often not possible given the significant knowledge gap in factors predisposing to eye infections and the limitations of available diagnostic tests in ophthalmology. The core hypothesis of this proposal is that the bacterial and viral constituents of the ocular surface are involved in ocular health and disease. The goal of this project is to understand this potential pathogen reservoir, the ocular surface microbiome and virome, and to identify infectious agents involved in ocular infections. We propose to advance the capabilities of ocular molecular diagnostics and enhance the understanding of the pathogenesis of ocular infections with the following aims. 
The first aim will evaluate the use of a next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based approach as a viable clinical diagnostic test for ocular infections. These experiments will directly compare NGS to the current conventional molecular diagnostics using archived intraocular samples. Prospectively collected aqueous samples will then be assessed for potential pathogens. 
The second aim will characterize the effects of antibiotics on the bacterial and viral communities using samples collected in a large randomized controlled trial. These studies have the potential to improve the diagnostic paradigm and guide targeted interventions for ocular infections.