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Viral keratoconjunctivitis  Photo: The UNSW Red Eye Clinic


By Rosanne Michie

A new Australian trial is aiming to fill the absence of approved therapies to treat the underlying cause of viral conjunctivitis.

Okogen, a biotech based in San Diego and Melbourne, has developed an antiviral to treat adenoviral conjunctivitis.

Okogen Managing Director Dr Brian M Strem said the company is set to initiate a clinical trial (coined RUBY) enrolling 219 patients at up to eight clinical sites  within Australia, expecting to start early 2019.

“Our preclinical studies are very promising,” Dr Strem said.

Despite the high incidence and known cause of viral conjunctivitis, to date there are no approved therapies for the disease, and care is mainly supportive.

Despite a lack of efficacy against this viral infection, physicians often prescribe antibiotics to patients desperate for relief from the eye pain, redness, swelling and discharge from viral conjunctivitis.

Okogen is hoping it has the answer.

‘OKG-0301, a topical ophthalmic drop, has demonstrated antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity, and has the potential to become a first-in-class therapy for adenoviral conjunctivitis.’ he said.

The phase two clinical trial will evaluate the ability of the OKG-0301 antiviral ophthalmic therapeutic to shorten the course of signs and symptoms and reduce the contagious period for the patient.

‘Many patients are prescribed antibiotics, which are essentially useless in a viral infection setting,’ Dr Strem said. ‘We know that many patients initially present to their local pharmacist, optometrist and/or general practitioner prior to seeing their ophthalmologist.’

Whilst this disease is typically self-resolving, it can last up to three weeks, is highly contagious and can carry long-term sequalae that can affect vision.

While these symptoms cause significant discomfort and embarrassment, inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

There are approximately 25 million cases of viral conjunctivitis annually worldwide and it is the leading ocular condition driving patients to seek medical care, constituting approximately one per cent of all primary care visits.

The infection can persist for up to three weeks, and patients are highly contagious for 10-14 days. This puts families and communities, including schools and childcare centres at risk of rapid spread of the infection and persistence of the virus within the population.

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