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Alexander M. Rowe, Hongmin Yun, Robert L. Hendricks; Exposure Stress Induces Reversible Corneal Graft Opacity in Recipients With Herpes Simplex Virus-1 Infections. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2017;58(1):35-41. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-19673.
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Most of the inflammation in murine herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)-induced stromal keratitis (HSK) is due to exposure stress resulting from loss of corneal nerves and blink reflex. Corneal grafts often fail when placed on corneal beds with a history of HSK. We asked if corneal exposure contributes to the severe pathology of corneal grafts on HSV-1–infected corneal beds.
Herpes simplex virus type 1–infected corneas were tested for blink reflex. Opacity and vascularization were monitored in allogeneic and syngeneic corneal grafts that were transplanted to corneal beds with no blink reflex or to those that retained blink reflex in at least one quadrant following infection.
Retention of any level of blink reflex significantly reduced inflammation in HSV-1–infected corneas. Corneal allografts placed on HSV-1–infected beds lacking corneal blink reflex developed opacity faster and more frequently than those placed on infected beds that partially or completely retained blink reflex. Corneal grafts placed on infected corneal beds with no blink reflex rapidly became opaque to a level that would be considered rejection. However, protecting these grafts from exposure by tarsorrhaphy prevented or reversed the opacity in both syngeneic and allogenic grafts.
Exposure due to HSV-1–engendered hypoesthesia causes rapid, severe, persistent, but reversible opacification of both allogeneic and syngeneic corneal grafts. This opacity should not be interpreted as immunologic rejection. Exposure stress may contribute to the high rate of corneal graft pathology in patients with recurrent HSK.
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