Purpose: An altered ocular surface microbiota may contribute to the pathophysiology of dry eye disease. The aim of the study was to explore potential differences in microbiota diversity and composition in aqueous tear-deficient dry eye (with and without ocular graft-versus-host disease) compared with controls. Methods: Swab samples from the inferior fornix of the conjunctiva were obtained from patients with aqueous tear-deficient dry eye with and without ocular graft-versus-host disease (n = 18, n = 21, respectively) and controls (n = 28). Isolated bacterial DNA from swabs were analyzed with 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. Results: Decreased microbiota diversity was observed in patients with aqueous tear-deficient dry eye (p ≤ 0.003) who also showed a difference in microbiota composition compared with controls (p = 0.001). Although several genera were less abundant in aqueous tear-deficient dry eye, a minimal core ocular surface microbiota comprising five genera was shared by >75% of the study participants: Enhydrobacter, Brevibacterium, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and Cutibacterium. Pseudomonas was identified as a bacterial biomarker for controls and Bacilli for patients with aqueous tear-deficient dry eye. Conclusions: Ocular surface microbiota in patients with aqueous tear-deficient dry eye was characterized by an aberrant microbiota composition in comparison to controls, with decreased diversity and reduced relative abundances of several genera. Additionally, a few genera were present in most of the study population, indicating that a minimal core ocular surface microbiota may exist.
- Dry eye
- Ocular surface microbiota
- 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing
- Bacterial biomarker
- Bacilli class