Bacterial contamination of intravitreal needles by the ocular surface microbiome

Jerome Ozkan, Minas Coroneo, Jennifer Sandbach, Dinesh Subedi, Mark Willcox, Torsten Thomas

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The ocular surface microbiota are recognised as one of causative microorganisms in post-procedural endophthalmitis but in many cases the vitreous tap is culture negative. This study investigated bacterial contamination of intravitreal (IVT) needles using multiple approaches covering culturing, 16S rRNA gene sequencing, fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Methods: IVT needles were obtained immediately after injection from patients undergoing treatment for predominantly age-related macular degeneration. Eighteen needles were analysed by culturing on chocolate blood agar. In addition, 40 needles were analysed by extracting DNA and paired-end sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. Sequences were quality filtered (USEARCH), taxonomically classified (SILVA) and contaminant filtered (DECONTAM). Nine needles were analysed by either FISH using the bacterial probe EUB338 or SEM. Results: Using culturing, three bacteria were identified from 5 of 18 needles (28%) - Kocuria kristinae, Staphylococcus hominis and Sphingomonas paucimobilis. The negative control needles showed no growth. Following rigorous data filtering, bacterial community analysis using 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed the presence of predominantly Corynebacterium but also Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Sphingomonas, Staphylococcus and Bacillus on the needles. Cocci-shaped cells in a tetrad formation were observed using FISH, while SEM images showed cocci-shaped bacteria in pairs and irregular tetrads. Conclusions: The study showed evidence for a large diversity of bacteria on IVT needles and visually confirmed their adherence. The diversity was similar to that found on the ocular surface and in conjunctival tissue. This suggests the risk of exogenous endophthalmitis remains even with sterilization of the conjunctival surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
JournalThe Ocular Surface
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • 16S rRNA gene sequencing
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Bacterial contamination
  • Conjunctiva
  • Intravitreal needle
  • Microbiology
  • Ocular microbiome

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