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Common antibiotic may fight dry eye disease

Dry Eye

A common antibiotic may combat dry eye disease, a new study has found. 

Washington: A common antibiotic may combat dry eye disease, a new study has found. Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is the leading cause of dry eye disease. Currently, there is no treatment for MGD that is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Researchers from the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School have now identified a potential therapy to treat dry eye disease.

“We discovered that azithromycin, an antibiotic, can directly stimulate the function of human meibomian gland epithelial cells,” said first author Yang Liu, a postdoctoral fellow at Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School.

This finding is very clinically significant, because topical azithromycin is the most commonly prescribed MGD treatment in the US, but its use is ‘off-label,’ which means the drug’s efficacy has not yet been evaluated and approved by the FDA for patients with MGD, researchers said.

This antibiotic has been presumed to be effective because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial actions, which may suppress the MGD-associated conjunctival inflammation (ie posterior blepharitis) and growth of lid bacteria.

“We hypothesised that azithromycin could act directly on human meibomian gland epithelial cells to stimulate their differentiation, enhance the quality and quantity of their lipid production, and promote their holocrine secretion. Our results support this hypothesis,” said senior author David A Sullivan, Senior Scientist and Margaret S Sinon Scholar in Ocular Surface Research, Schepens Eye Research Institute and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School.

The findings in this study may help lead to broader use of topical azithromycin as an FDA-approved, ‘on-label’ treatment to ameliorate the path physiology of MGD and its associated evaporative dry eye disease, researchers said.

The finding is published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.


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