It is called herpes simplex keratitis. And yes, it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, or HSV-1. More than two thirds of the world’s population under 50 (around 3.7 billion people) have the herpes virus during their lifetime, but not everyone shows symptoms.
When herpes simplex infects the eye, it can be very difficult to get rid of, even with antibiotics and antiviral medication, because it gets right into the nerve and can cause scarring.
It is a major cause of blindness and affects all ages from babies through to the elderly.
Specialists at Sydney Eye Hospital see a lot of patients with herpes simplex keratitis so were well placed to assist researchers in developing best practice guidelines to diagnose and treat the condition.
The research was conducted by Dr Maria Cabrera-Aguas as part of her PhD, and was supervised by Professor Stephanie Watson, Corneal Ophthalmologist and Head of Corneal Unit at Sydney Eye Hospital.
“We looked at more than 1700 records and treatments for patients with this infection, and reviewed guidelines used across the world,” says Professor Watson.
In consultation with specialists and the pharmacy at the Sydney Eye Hospital, the research team then developed best-practice guidelines which are constantly updated based on six monthly audits and reviews.
To make them easy to access for busy doctors, the guidelines are printed on small cards that fit into a doctor’s neck lanyard, along with posters in consultation rooms, plus an animated video.
“This project is a great partnership between research and clinical practice,” says Professor Watson. “It’s a PhD study looking at a clinical problem and using research tools we’ve created a real-world outcome for patients.”