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Investigative ophthalmology & visual science


Purpose: Age, sex, and genetics are important biological variables in determining an individual's susceptibility or response to infectious agents; however, their role has not been evaluated in intraocular infections. In this study, we comprehensively examined the impact of these host biological factors in the pathogenesis of experimental bacterial endophthalmitis.

Methods: Endophthalmitis was induced by intravitreal injection of bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) in the eyes of male and female C57BL/6 mice of different ages: group I (young, 6-8 weeks), group II (mid-age, 18-20 weeks), and group III (old, 1 year). Highly heterogeneous outbred J:DO mice were used for genetic diversity analysis. Eyes were subjected to clinical examination, retinal function testing using electroretinography (ERG), histopathological analysis (hematoxylin and eosin staining), and bacterial burden estimation. The levels of inflammatory mediators were measured using qPCR and ELISA, and the infiltration of neutrophils was determined by flow cytometry.

Results: Both inbred C57BL/6 and diversity outbred (J:DO) mice were equally susceptible to S. aureus endophthalmitis, as evidenced by a time-dependent increase in clinical scores, bacterial burden, intraocular inflammation, and retinal tissue damage, in addition to decreased retinal function. However, no significant differences were observed in disease severity and innate responses in male versus female mice. Older mice (group III) exhibited higher clinical scores coinciding with increased bacterial proliferation and intraocular inflammation, resulting in enhanced disease severity. Moreover, bone-marrow-derived macrophages from old mice exhibited reduced phagocytic activity but increased inflammatory response toward S. aureus challenge.

Conclusions: Age, but not sex, is an important biological variable in bacterial endophthalmitis. Identification of pathways underlying altered innate immunity and impaired bacterial clearance in aging eyes could provide new insights into the pathobiology of intraocular infections in elderly patients.

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