Fungal Keratitis Treatment & Management
Antifungal agents are classified into the following groups:
Polyenes include natamycin, nystatin, and amphotericin B. Polyenes disrupt the cell by binding to fungal cell wall ergosterol and are effective against both filamentous and yeast forms.
Amphotericin B is the drug of choice to treat patients with fungal keratitis caused by yeasts.
Although polyenes penetrate ocular tissue poorly, amphotericin B is the drug of choice for treatment of fungal keratitis caused by Candida. In addition, it has efficacy against many filamentous fungi. Administration is every 30 minutes for the first 24 hours, every hour for the second 24 hours, and then is slowly tapered according to the clinical response.
Natamycin has a broad-spectrum of activity against filamentous organisms. The penetration of topically applied amphotericin B is found to be less than that of topically applied natamycin through the intact corneal epithelium.
Natamycin is the only commercially available topical ophthalmic antifungal preparation. It is effective against filamentous fungi, particularly for infections caused by Fusarium. However, because of poor ocular penetration, it has primarily been useful in cases with superficial corneal infection.
Azoles (imidazoles and triazoles) include ketoconazole, miconazole, fluconazole, itraconazole, econazole, and clotrimazole. Azoles inhibit ergosterol synthesis at low concentrations, and, at higher concentrations, they appear to cause direct damage to cell walls.
Oral fluconazole and ketoconazole are absorbed systemically with good levels in the anterior chamber and the cornea; therefore, they should be considered in the management of deep fungal keratitis.
Imidazoles and triazoles are synthetic chemical antifungal agents. High cornea levels of ketoconazole and fluconazole have been demonstrated in animal studies. Because of excellent penetration in ocular tissue, these medications, given systemically, are the preferred treatment of keratitis caused by filamentous fungi and yeast.
The adult dose of ketoconazole is 200-400 mg/d, which can be increased to 800 mg/d. However, because of the secondary effects, increasing the dose should be done carefully. Gynecomastia, oligospermia, and decreased libido have been reported in 5-15% of patients who have been taking 400 mg/d for a long period.
The potential role of itraconazole in treatment of fungal keratitis is still unclear. However, it may be a helpful adjunctive agent in fungal keratitis.
Fluorinated pyrimidines, such as flucytosine, are other antifungal agents. Flucytosine is converted into a thymidine analog that blocks fungal thymidine synthesis. It
usually is administered in combination with an azole or amphotericin B; it is synergistic with these medications. Otherwise, if flucytosine is the only drug used in therapy for candidal infections, emergence of resistance rapidly develops. Therefore, flucytosine should never be used alone.
Treatment should be instituted promptly with topical fortified antifungal drops, initially every hour during the day and every 2 hours over night.
Subconjunctival injections may be used in patients with severe keratitis or keratoscleritis. They also can be used when poor patient compliance exists.
An oral antifungal (eg, ketoconazole, fluconazole) should be considered for patients with deep stromal infection. Antifungal therapy usually is maintained for 12 weeks, and patients are monitored closely.
Fluconazole has been shown to penetrate better into the cornea after systemic administration compared to other azoles and may be associated with fewer adverse effects.
A study by Matsumoto et al has shown that topical 0.1% micafungin eye drops are comparable to 0.2% fluconazole in the treatment of fungal keratitis no matter patient’s age, gender, or ulcer size. 
In vitro antifungal sensitivities often are performed to assess resistance patterns of the fungal isolate. However, in vitro susceptibility testing may not correspond with in vivo clinical response because of host factors, corneal penetration of the antifungal, and difficulty in standardization of antifungal sensitivities. Therefore, they should be performed in a standardized method at a reference laboratory.
The promotion of fungal growth by corticosteroid treatment is well recognized; therefore, corticosteroid drops should not be used in the treatment of fungal keratitis until after 2 weeks of antifungal treatment and clear clinical evidence of infection control. Steroids should only be used when the active inflammation is believed to be causing significant damage to the structure of the cornea and/or vision. The steroid is always used in conjunction with the topical antifungal.
Therapy may be modified.
Decisions about alternate therapy must be based on the biomicroscopic signs and on the tolerance of the topical medications. Improvement in clinical signs may be difficult to detect during the initial days of antifungal therapy. However, some of the biomicroscopic signs that may be helpful to evaluate efficacy are as follows:
Blunting of the perimeters of the infiltrate
Reduction of the density of the suppuration
Reduction in cellular infiltrate and edema in the surrounding stroma