Fungal keratitis is an infection of the cornea caused by pathogenic fungi that is challenging to treat. This therapy is a novel topical application of a commercially-available malarial drug to treat fungal keratitis with fewer side effects than current treatments.
Fungal keratitis is a rare, yet serious, corneal disease that remains a challenge to treat. Individuals can quickly develop a corneal infection from exposure to different fungi (Fusarium, Aspergillus, or Candida) with an eye injury or contact lens use. Resulting corneal infections, if left untreated, could lead to irreversible blindness. Patients with fungal keratitis are typically treated with anti-fungal eye drops and oral anti-fungal medications including: topical natamycin, voriconazole, systemic voriconazole, amphotericin B. These treatments, however, produce little efficacy and can produce toxic side effects in the kidneys. UCI researchers discovered a novel application of atovaquone (historically used as a systemic malarial treatment) which can be used topically to treat corneal fungal keratitis. Atovaquone in therapeutic doses showed significant anti-fungal growth of Aspergillus and Fusarium and furthermore, atovaquone eye drops inhibited fungal growth in a murine model of corneal infection. Moveover, the researchers elucidated two mechanisms of action by atovaquone, which enables further exploiting the anti-fungal activity of atovaquone to directly kill and inhibit growth of filamentous fungi.
Novel topical treatment for fungal corneal infections to prevent visual impairment
· Effective anti-fungal activity (about 10-fold reduction of Aspergillus and Fusarium species)
· Inexpensive topical formulation
· Fewer side effects than current treatments
· Monotherapy or combinatorial treatment with other anti-fungal agents