Meibomian gland dropout is associated with immunodeficiency at HIV diagnosis: Implications for dry eye disease

Bao N. Nguyen, Amy W. Chung, Ester Lopez, Julie Silvers, Helen E. Kent, Stephen J. Kent, Laura E. Downie

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To characterize anterior eye health and tear film characteristics in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) undergoing anti-retroviral therapy. Methods: This cross-sectional study involved 35 adults, categorized as healthy controls (n = 18) or as HIV-positive patients (n = 17), with no history of opportunistic infection or current ocular fundus abnormalities. Participants underwent a comprehensive anterior eye assessment. Primary outcome measures were dry eye symptoms (Ocular Surface Disease Index survey), tear film osmolarity, and extent of meibomian gland dropout. Secondary outcomes measures were ocular redness, tear film stability, and ocular surface staining. Levels of 36 cytokines were assayed from basal tears using a multiplex bead array. Results: The HIV-positive group showed more extensive meibomian gland dropout relative to controls (mean ± SD, controls: 29.6 ± 5.8 versus 37.0 ± 13.9%, p = 0.045). The extent of meibomian gland dropout was negatively correlated with blood CD4 T-cell count (a marker of immunodeficiency) at diagnosis (r = −0.69, p = 0.006). All other tests of anterior ocular health, including dry eye symptom levels, were not significantly different between the groups. There were no significant inter-group differences for the 36 cytokines assayed in the tear film. Conclusions: We find greater meibomian gland dropout in HIV-positive individuals that is related to disease severity at diagnosis. Given this feature predisposes to dry eye disease, it suggests the need for long-term studies of anterior eye health in people with HIV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-213
Number of pages8
JournalThe Ocular Surface
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-retroviral therapy
  • Cytokine
  • Dry eye
  • Eye
  • HIV
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Meibography
  • Meibomian gland
  • Tear film

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