Raising awareness of the dangers of tap water for contact lens wearers

Acanthamoeba Keratitis cells
Research category: corneal


Aims and objectives:

Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) is a rare but devastating infection at the front of the eye in which a quarter of patients lose significant vision. Over 85% of cases occur in contact lens wearers, who are generally young and otherwise healthy individuals. The use of domestic tap water with contact lenses is a major behavioural risk factor for this disease, however most contact lens wearers are unaware of the risk. 

Work being carried out:

Building upon a case control study into the genetic and environmental risk factors for AK, researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital together with patients with AK worked to encourage healthy contact lens use through a number of avenues including a social awareness publicity campaign. Videos from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology also highlighted best practice for contact lens use. 

Between 1 and 18 September 2014, when the campaign was first launched, the Moorfields website saw a 15% increase in page views, a 136% increase in YouTube views, 70 new Facebook likes, 60 new Twitter followers and 21 new LinkedIn likes. Heavy traffic from the optical media (including Contact Lens Spectrum in the US) prompted an article in a national newspaper and two primetime radio slots. 

Outcomes and impact:

Through continued engagement, the impact of a number of research and patient engagement activities has ensured that these successes continue to be built upon. This includes publication of a patient information leaflet, patient focus and support group meetings and public awareness campaigns including a BBC news interview (April 2017) where a former Moorfields patient with AK continues to advocate greater awareness of the risks of AK.

Research details

Full Title

Healthy contact lens wear project

Grant holder

Dr Nicole Carnt

Research Area(s)

Corneal / ocular surface disease

Start date

May 2015

Award level


Funding scheme

Patient support

Grant reference: P150002-5A

Date: 14 August 2018