Neutrophils release neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) when defending against invading microorganisms. We investigated the existence of NETs in fungal keratitis.
Fourteen patients with unilateral fungal keratitis were included. Detailed information about each patient was recorded, including (1) patient history (onset of symptoms and previous therapy), (2) ocular examination findings by slit-lamp biomicroscopy, (3) laboratory findings from direct smear examination and culture of corneal scrapings, (4) NET formation, and (5) treatment strategy and prognosis. Immunofluorescence staining was used to evaluate the existence of NETs on corneal scrapings. The relationship between the quantification of NETs and the clinical character of the fungal keratitis was identified.
NETs were identified in all 14 patients. Patients with a higher grade of NET formation and fewer fungal hyphae always showed a good treatment response and a short course of infection. NETs were consistently found mixed with fungal hyphae in the corneal scrapings from infected patients. No statistical significance was found between the grade of NETs formed and the course of infection before presentation, and no relationship between the quantification of NETs and the size of the ulcer was found.
The results suggest that NETs are involved in fungal keratitis. The number of NETs in infected corneas may provide a tool for evaluating the prognosis for fungal keratitis.