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Potential Treatment for Pink Eye Discovered: New Study


If you or your children have ever suffered with viral pink eye, you know there’s no approved treatment for this highly infectious and uncomfortable eye disease. But that may change in the near future: scientists report they have discovered a potential new drug treatment for epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (“pink eye”).

Pink eye affects people of all ages

Pink eye is inflammation and redness of the membranes (conjunctiva) that cover the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner region of the eyelids. The eye disease can be caused by viruses or bacteria, be either infectious or noninfectious, and occur in people of any age.

The main cause of pink eye is a virus infection, and the viruses most often responsible are adenoviruses, which belong to the same family of viruses that cause the common cold. And the eye disease itself is common as well: approximately 15 to 20 million Americans experience pink eye each year. Viral pink eye typically begins in one eye and then affects the other eye within a few days.

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A Swedish research team has discovered a drug treatment that prevents the viruses from attaching to and infecting the cornea, and thus can prevent the symptoms associated with the disease. Those symptoms include a watery discharge from the eyes, swollen eyelids, redness, eye pain, reduced vision, runny nose, and sinus congestion. Symptoms can last for one to three weeks, while reduced vision may last for months.

The potential new drug removes viruses in the eye and stops new viruses from developing. Thus the drug would accelerate the healing process and reduce the risk of spreading the disease to the other eye and to other individuals. This is a significant benefit, because pink eye is contagious, and “patients are usually recommended to stay home from work or school, resulting in substantial economic losses,” noted the scientists.

Details of the potential treatment for pink eye appear in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. There’s no word on when the public can expect to see the drug on the market.

Aplander K et al. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2011; 110831132824018

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons