Comparative performance of analytical techniques for polyhexamethylene biguanide (PHMB) in ophthalmic solutions

Aisling Mann, Anisa Mahomed, Brian Tighe, Darren Campbell

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferencePoster


Purpose: The use of PHMB as a disinfectant in contact lens multipurpose solutions has been at the centre of much debate in recent times, particularly in relation to the issue of solution induced corneal staining. Clinical studies have been carried out which suggest different effects with individual contact lens materials used in combination with specific PHMB containing care regimes. There does not appear to be, however, a reliable analytical technique that would detect and quantify with any degree of accuracy the specific levels of PHMB that are taken up and released from individual solutions by the various contact lens materials.
Methods: PHMB is a mixture of positively charged polymer units of varying molecular weight that has maximum absorbance wavelength of 236 nm. On the basis of these properties a range
of assays including capillary electrophoresis, HPLC, a nickelnioxime colorimetric technique, mass spectrophotometry, UV spectroscopy and ion chromatography were assessed paying particular attention to each of their constraints and detection levels. Particular interest was focused on the relative advantage of contactless conductivity compared to UV and mass spectrometry detection in capillary electrophoresis (CE). This study provides an overview of the comparative performance of these techniques.
Results: The UV absorbance of PHMB solutions, ranging from 0.0625 to 50 ppm was measured at 236 nm. Within this range the calibration curve appears to be linear however, absorption values below 1 ppm (0.0001%) were extremely difficult to reproduce. The concentration of PHMB in solutions is in the range of 0.0002–0.00005% and our investigations suggest that levels of PHMB below 0.0001% (levels encountered in uptake and release studies) can not be accurately estimated, in particular when analysing complex lens care solutions which can contain competitively absorbing, and thus interfering, species in the solution. The use of separative methodologies, such as CE using UV detection alone is similarly limited. Alternative techniques including contactless conductivity detection offer greater discrimination in complex solutions together with the opportunity for dual channel detection.
Preliminary results achieved by TraceDec1 contactless conductivity detection, (Gain 150%, Offset 150) in conjunction with the Agilent capillary electrophoresis system using a bare fused silica capillary (extended light path, 50 mid, total length 64.5 cm, effective length 56 cm) and a cationic buffer at pH 3.2, exhibit great potential with reproducible PHMB split peaks.
Conclusions: PHMB-based solutions are commonly associated with the potential to invoke corneal staining in combination with certain contact lens materials. However this terminology ‘PHMBbased solution’ is used primarily because PHMB itself has yet to be adequately implicated as the causative agent of the staining and compromised corneal cell integrity. The lack of well characterised adequately sensitive assays, coupled with the range of additional components that characterise individual care solutions pose a major barrier to the investigation of PHMB interactions in the lenswearing eye.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventBritish Contact Lens Association - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 May 201030 May 2010


ConferenceBritish Contact Lens Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

Abstract published in Abstracts / Contact Lens & Anterior Eye 32 (2009), 250-251 DOI:


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