Fungal keratitis in northern thailand: Spectrum of agents, risk factors and putative virulence factors

Siriporn Chongkae, Sirida Youngchim, Joshua D. Nosanchuk, Angkana Laliam, Chulaluck Tangmonkongvoragul, Kritsada Pruksaphon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Fungal keratitis (FK) is a serious ocular infection that can result in various degrees of vi-sion loss, including blindness. The aim of the study was to identify and retrospectively review all FK cases diagnosed between August 2012 and December 2020 at a tertiary care hospital in northern Thailand with a specific focus on epidemiologic features, including season, patient sex and age, the spectrum of pathogens, and presence of certain putative virulence factors. Of 1237 patients with corneal ulcers, 294 (23.8%) were confirmed by direct microscopic examination and/or fungal culture. For the positive cases, direct examinations of Calcofluor white (CW) stains and KOH mounts were found in 97.3% (286/294) and 76.5% (225/294), respectively (p < 0.05). Of the cases diagnosed by microscopy and culture, fungi were isolated in 152 (51.7%), with Fusarium spp. being the most frequently identified (n = 69, 45.5%) followed by dematiaceous fungi (n = 45, 29.6%) and Aspergillus spp. (n = 18, 11.8%). The incidence of FK was higher in the rainy season of July to October. The mean age was 54.4 ± 14.4 (SD) years, with a range of 9–88 years. Males (75.8%) were affected significantly more than females (24.2%) (p < 0.05). Of 294 patients, 132 (44.9%) were mid-dle‐aged adults (41–60 years) and 107 (36.4%) were older than 60 years. Trauma to the eye by soil or vegetative matter were the most common preceding factors (188/294; 64.0%). We assessed two virulence factors. First, 142 of the 152 culture‐positive FK cases were due to molds, indicating that hyphal morphogenesis is extremely important in disease. We also demonstrated that fungal melanization occurs in the molds during the course of FK by applying a melanin‐specific mono-clonal antibody (MAb) that labeled fungal elements in corneal samples of patients, and melanin particles derived from the hyphae were also recovered after treatment of the samples with proteo-lytic enzymes, denaturant and hot concentrated acid. In summary, we demonstrate that northern Thailand has a high rate of FK that is influenced by season and males engaged in outside activities are at highest risk for disease. Moulds are significantly more commonly responsible for FK, in part due to their capacity to form hyphae and melanins. Future studies will examine models of fungal corneal interactions and assess additional factors of virulence, such as secreted enzymes, to more deeply decipher the pathogenesis of FK.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number475
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Anti melanin monoclonal antibody
  • Fungal keratitis
  • Fungi
  • Melanin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Microbiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Fungal keratitis in northern thailand: Spectrum of agents, risk factors and putative virulence factors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this