The role of tetracycline in chronic blepharitis: Inhibition of lipase production in staphylococci

J. M. Dougherty, James P McCulley, R. E. Silvany, D. R. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Tetracycline administered in low doses can be effective in the long-term management of patients with meibomian keratoconjunctivitis (MKC). However, the mechanism of action does not appear to be a reduction of bacteria. Seventy-five percent of the ocular staphylococci in such patients are resistant to tetracycline. An alternative mechanism of action could be the inhibition of production of extracellular enzymes by the ocular flora. Inhibition of lipase production could result in lowered levels of toxic hydrolysis products (free fatty acids), which may exacerbate the disease process. The authors tested this hypothesis by examining the differential effect of tetracycline on growth and lipase production in a tetracycline-resistant and tetracycline-sensitive strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis and S. aureus isolated from patients with MKC and Staphylococcal blepharitis. Tetracycline caused significant decreases in the production of lipase in the sensitive and resistant strains of S. epidermidis without concomitant decreases in growth. In contrast, S. aureus strains showed parallel decreases in both lipase production and inhibition of growth. The authors propose that the sensitivity of lipase production to tetracycline, in tetracycline-resistant S. epidermidis, may partially explain the clinical improvement observed in MKC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2970-2975
Number of pages6
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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