Purpose: To examine associations between indoor airborne microbial concentration and dry eye (DE) measures. Design: Prospective, observational, cross-sectional study. Methods: A total of 157 individuals with normal external ocular anatomy were recruited from the Miami Veterans Affairs eye clinic. Subjects underwent a clinical evaluation that included assessment of DE symptoms and signs. Indoor air was sampled using bioaerosol impactors with nutrient and soy media, and samples were incubated for 48 hours at 37 C with 5% CO2. Number of microbial colonies (CFU) was recorded. Outcome measures were DE symptoms and signs. Results: A total of 157 unique subjects participated in home and clinical visits and of these, 93 completed a 6-month follow-up of home and clinical visits. Older homes were found to have higher CFU compared to newer homes. A 1% increase in humidity was associated with a 3% increase in nutrient CFU (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.01 to 0.04; P <.001). Instrumented CFU significantly associated with 2 DE measures: corneal epithelial disruption and lower eyelid meibomian gland (MG) dropout, adjusted for age and sex (odds ratio [OR] = 28.07, 95% CI =1.8, 443.8, P <.05; OR = 39.6, CI = 1.8, 875.2, P <.05 for soy, respectively). After adjusting for other confounders, CFU and age remained significantly associated with MG dropout. Other DE measures did not significantly associate with CFU. Conclusions: Individuals with higher CFU counts in the home had more severe MG dropout, after adjusting for age and other confounders. This finding suggests that home CFU exposure may impact MG dropout, one of the DE measures, and may be a target for intervention.
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