What’s known as acute anterior uveitis is the most common cause of blindness in Australia and so far, does not have effective treatment. But scientists have discovered that this chronic eye inflammation is linked to abnormal gut bacteria in people who have a particular genetic profile. The Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation is funding a new research study to bring hope to thousands.
The case for funding
Uveitis causes as much vision impairment as diabetic retinopathy and in developed countries is responsible for 10-15% of blind registrations. It typically affects children and young adults, and visual impairment that comes with the disease has high life-long socio-economic and health costs.
Acute anterior uveitis represents 60% of cases of uveitis in Sydney and approximately half of those patients carry the HLA-B27 gene profile.
Researchers at Sydney Eye Hospital plan to systematically examine the gut microbiome of those who have been identified as HLA-B27 positive at various stages of disease progression. And using cutting edge microbiome technology they’ll compare those findings with healthy control groups who also carry the gene.
The aim is to implement new treatments to modify the microbiome to relieve the effects of disease and prevent blindness.
With thanks to generous donations to Sydney Eye Hospital Foundation, Professor Peter McCluskey, AO, Ophthalmology Chair, University of Sydney will lead a study titled “HLA-B27 Driven Alteration of Gut Microbiome Leading to HLA-B27 Associated Anterior Uveitis”.
Preliminary data has revealed a trend of unique gut microbial signatures in patients with severe disease. Funding ensures scientific discovery will continue through advanced metagenomic, proteomic and, metabolomic studies using a larger group of patients and controls.
“Building on the data we’ve already collected and analysed, I’m excited so see what we discover – hopefully it is a viable treatment to cure the most common cause of blindness in Australia.” - Professor Peter McCluskey