Fifteen brands of colored contact lenses (CCL) were purchased from optical, non-optical retail outlets, and via the Internet. A standardized rub-off test was performed on each CCL (five lenses per brand) to confirm the location of the pigments. The rub-off test comprised gentle rubbing on the surfaces of each CCL with wetted cotton buds for a maximum of 20 rubs per surface. A new set of CCL (five lenses per brand) were incubated in Pseudomonas aeruginosa overnight. Viable counts of adhered bacteria were determined by the number of colony-forming units (CFU) on agar media on each lens. The adherence of P. aeruginosa as well as Staphylococcus aureus and Serratia marcescens to three brands of CCL (A–C) (five lenses per brand) were also compared to their adherences on their clear counterparts.
Only two of the 15 brands of CCL tested (brands B and C) had pigments that did not detach with the rub-off test. The remaining 13 brands of CCL all failed the rub-off test and these lenses showed higher P. aeruginosa adherence (8.7×10 –1.9×10 CFU/lens). Brands B and C lenses showed at least six times less bacterial adhesion than the other 13 brands. Compared to their clear counterparts, bacterial adherence to brands B and C lenses did not differ significantly, whereas brand A lenses showed significantly higher adherence.
Surface pigments on CCL resulted in significantly higher bacterial adherence.