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From Amoebas To Microchips: The Highs And Lows Of Contact Lenses

While Google and Novartis are trying to develop a "smart" contact lens, a student in Taiwan has her corneas eaten by an amoeba linked to contact lenses.

As a lifelong bookworm, I’ve been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember. I also happen to have contact lenses that I wear on occasion, but now I may not ever want to wear them photo: Broad illumination. Nodular scleritis, superonasal quadrant adjacent to the limbus in advanced keratitis (may be sterile or contain Acanthamoeba organisms). (Photo courtesy of Dan B. Jones, M.D. )

Earlier today, Novartis and Google announced plans to use Google’s technology to create a “smart” contact lens that might help people with diabetes and may also improve some eye conditions. That sounds like a wonderful, noble purpose, and a nice follow-up to Google Glass.

However, there is one eye condition that has an unfortunate link to contact lenses: acanthamoeba keratitis.

Per Newser, a 23-year-old student in Taiwan had her corneas eaten (yes, eaten) by amoebas after wearing contacts continuously for six months. 

While the CDC recommends some standard safety tips to prevent acanthamoeba keratitis, the fact that it exists at all is enough to scare me into Lasik surgery. I’m not sure I would be willing to ride in a Google car with no driver, and I’m not sure I’d buy contact lenses without an amoeba-free coating on them. Perhaps as a drug maker, that’s something Novartis could work into the design.

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