This initial research encouraged visiting Professor and NHS Ayrshire & Arran corneal surgeon, Sathish Srinivasan, to become part of the research team as he identified its huge potential to lead to effective treatment of Acanthamoeba and inform the millions of contact lens users worldwide of the potential dangers.
He commented: “Research conducted at UWS has had a transformational impact on the knowledge of the Acanthamoeba organism, and it will have an immediate effect on the millions of sufferers who contract the disease annually.
“This pioneering research has already impacted other countries including Spain, Germany and Italy through patient groups and research collaborations with prestigious universities including University of Sassari, University of Strathclyde. Alongside Professor Henriquez and UWS academics Roderick Williams, Scott Thomson and Ronnie Mooney, it has been a career highlight to help deliver this revolutionary research which will transform the eye-care market worldwide. UWS has found a viable treatment for a once untreatable disease.”
It is proposed that the compound will be included as an additive at the manufacturing stage of contact lens solutions, removing any additional care requirements from contact lens wearers.
Contact lens wearer Yvonne Cunningham, 40, of Stewarton in Ayrshire, experienced a sharp pain in her right eye in November 2018. Following a visit to her optician, she was diagnosed with iritis – the inflammation of the coloured ring around the iris - and was prescribed antibiotics and steroids to treat the condition.
However, the excruciating pain in her eye developed. Following 15 hospital visits and no further diagnosis, on Boxing Day 2018 Yvonne woke completely blinded in her right eye. After weeks of pain & rounds of specialist testing at University Hospital Ayr, she was finally diagnosed with Acanthamoeba keratitis in February 2019.
Frustrated at the misdiagnosis which led to continued deterioration of her eye, Yvonne was then dealt a further blow and was advised that the AK bug had aggressively attacked her cornea, leaving it perforated, and she now needed an emergency cornea transplant.
Yvonne said: “Despite how common it is, I had never heard of Ak before developing it myself. It’s uncertain whether I’ll ever get any vision back, I’ve had to learn to live with the sight of just one eye which has impacted by social, work and family life. If the compound discovered by research at UWS can prevent others experiencing the paid I’ve endured, then it truly is amazing. I hope it also raises awareness around Acanthamoeba keratitis and helps other contact lens wearers understand its severity.”
UWS plans to create a spin-out company to roll out the safe new additive to contact lens and eye care solutions, and this has already attracted attention from industry leaders and contact lens providers.