Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Diagnosis of ophthalmia neonatorum.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 28 November 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1377
  1. J Winceslaus,
  2. B T Goh,
  3. E M Dunlop,
  4. J Mantell,
  5. R M Woodland,
  6. T Forsey,
  7. J D Treharne
  1. Whitechapel Clinic, London Hospital.


    Ninety consecutively seen babies with eye discharge in the first three weeks of life were examined. Four babies had "sticky eyes" with no evidence of ophthalmia and had uniformly negative cultures and test results for antichlamydial antibody; these babies were excluded. Of the 86 babies with ophthalmia neonatorum, Neisseria gonorrhoeae was isolated from eight, Chlamydia trachomatis from 44, other bacteria alone from 20, and 14 had negative cultures. Three babies with negative cultures had longstanding conjunctivitis and had been treated with chloramphenicol eye ointment; all had antichlamydial IgM antibodies, indicating that the conjunctivitis was chlamydial. Hence the total number of babies whose conjunctivitis was chlamydial was 47. The result of the Gram stained conjunctival smear correlated well with that of culture and final assessment by the microimmunofluorescence test, enabling an immediate presumptive diagnosis to be made of gonococcal, chlamydial, or bacterial conjunctivitis. Prompt and effective treatment of babies was started. Explanation to the mother and contact tracing were carried out when the confirmatory cultures and antibody tests were completed. The Gram stained conjunctival smear is a highly sensitive, specific, and predictive test for the aetiological agent of ophthalmia neonatorum. By virtue of its simplicity and rapidity the test may be useful in developing countries.