You may have seen NBA star Ron Baker’s cringe-inducing move of putting his contact lens in his mouth to moisten it before putting it back in his eye. If not, watch it here.

Scientists from the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo, Ontario saw the video. Then, they shared the results of experiments that demonstrated the rapid growth of bacteria associated with mishandling contact lenses.

CORE researchers exposed new, clean contact lenses to human saliva and then placed them into petri plates for monitoring. The action of putting a contact lens in the mouth resulted in significant growth of microorganisms after only two days of incubation. They then examined the effect of handling contact lenses with both clean and unwashed hands. Unwashed hands were pressed into agar, and also used to handle a new contact lens. Scientists then repeated the procedure after following recommended handwashing practices, touching both the agar directly, along with applying and removing a contact lens. Talk about cringe-worthy: Samples that had been placed in the mouth or touched with unwashed hands showed significantly higher numbers of visible bacteria. By comparison, the contact lens touched with clean hands had only a minimal bacterial load.

“Contact lenses are a safe, highly effective form of vision correction used by millions of people, but ignoring good contact lens care can have a devastating effect on eye health and vision,” says CORE senior research associate Miriam Heynen, MSc, who conducted the experiment with laboratory research assistant Vivian Chan, Bsc, after hearing a news report on poor contact lens care habits.

“Bacteria are present on surfaces all around us and this simple experiment is a graphic demonstration of how they reproduce over just a short amount of time. Taking care of your contact lenses is a must, no matter how pressed for time you are. Handle with clean, dry hands, use a case and care solution as recommended by an eye care practitioner, and always keep spare contact lenses and spectacles with you. Proper care is simple, essential for good health, and after seeing these photos, a no-brainer for anyone who appreciates their eyes.”

To help promote good hand hygiene and safe contact lens wear, the CORE team create a printable, easy-to-read tip sheet, which you can download and share with patients.


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