Chlamydia has been found to be the cause of a high percentage of cases of neonatal and chronic conjunctivitis in an inner-city population. To assess the etiology and epidemiology of acute conjunctivitis in this population, conjunctival scrapings were sampled from 45 patients presenting to an ocular emergency room; and replicate chlamydial, viral, and bacterial cultures and cytology tests were done. No cases of chlamydial conjunctivitis were diagnosed, although a viral etiology was established in 36% of the cases and a bacterial etiology in 40%. Twenty-four percent of the cases were not diagnosed. The authors recommend limiting the initial laboratory workup of patients with acute conjunctivitis to obtaining conjunctival smears for Gram and Giemsa staining. Chlamydial direct immunofluorescent monoclonal antibody (DFA) should be done if the patient is sexually active. Hyperacute conjunctivitis or acute conjunctivitis refractory to treatment mandates a more complete set of laboratory tests.
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