Parasite Causes Severe Corneal Infection in Young Local Man

3 min read  |  August 08, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

Mike Kromholz awoke from a nap with a severe corneal infection that nearly cost him his left eye.

“Very teary. Very itchy with gunk coming out. It’s terrifying my friends seeing the pictures of my eye. Terrifying my family, terrifying me,” says Mike.

Mike saw four doctors in 30 days but did not receive a diagnosis until he met with Guillermo Amescua, M.D., an ophthalmologist and corneal specialist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

“Corneal infection is when a bacteria, a parasite, or a fungi gets inside the corneal tissue,” Dr. Amescua explains. “He unfortunately caught a really bad infection, which is called Acanthamoeba, it’s a parasite that invades the cornea. The highest risk factor is contact lens use. Either patients are not taking good care of the contact lenses, sleeping with them, swimming with them.”

At Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Dr. Amescua and the team in the Ocular Microbiology Lab, developed a treatment using Photodynamic Therapy to kill the infection and reduce inflammation in the cornea.

“I am lucky to have, as a mentor, Dr. Jean-Marie Parel. He’s been working with Bascom Palmer for more than 50 years. He has more patents than many companies, and he developed many of the instruments that we use in the field. So, his team of engineers developed the light source and in collaboration with Dr. Darlene Miller, she’s the Director of the Ocular Microbiology Lab. Between the three of us and the rest of the team, we’ve been trying to develop this technology,” says Dr. Amescua.

The treatment is undergoing clinical trials pending FDA-approval.

“Currently we are under a clinical trial with the NIH and University of California in San Francisco, where we’re evaluating this technology in a major center in India, a major center in Brazil, and soon hoping here in the United States,” Dr. Amescua says.

“He’s the only one that gave me hope and I had all my trust in him,” says Mike.

Mike shared his journey on social media hoping to prevent another person from getting this painful infection.

“Me and you probably never heard the name of this parasite before or with sleeping in contact lenses, that it’s just dangerous. But it felt good to see how many people are going through it and be able to give them some type of information and spread awareness about it,” Mike says.

Mike is now infection-free. He hopes to one day regain full vision in his left eye and says Dr. Amescua helped him see the light again! “I can go to the beach now. He saved my eye, really,” says Mike.

Guillermo Amescua, M.D., is an ophthalmologist and corneal specialist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. For more information about services offered, click here.

Video transcript compiled by Janna Ross for ‘Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine,’ a series of health care-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10.  For more stories like this one, visit UHealth’s YouTube channel.

Tags: Acanthamoeba, cornea, corneal infection, corneal specialist, Dr. Guillermo Amescua, focusing on you, ophthalmologist, parasite

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