Coronavirus lingered in eyes for 20 days even after symptoms clear
New Delhi, Apr 22: A recent study has found that novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 can linger in your eyes even after the virus has left your respiratory system.
Researchers made the discovery after they examined the first confirmed case in Italy. The 65-year-old unnamed woman had flown from Wuhan (initial epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic), China to Italy on January 23.
According to a research letter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the woman noticed symptoms of COVID-19 days later, which included dry cough, sore throat inflammation of the mucous membrane in the nose and conjunctivitis. She also developed a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and became nauseous.
The woman was admitted to at Italy's Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases hospital and diagnosed with coronavirus the next day.
As her conjunctivitis wouldn't clear up, doctors decided to take a swab from her eye on her third day at the institution, and repeated this almost daily.
The coronavirus was present, but less concentrated, in her eye up to day 21.
The study also found that the ocular fluid from infected patients may contain the virus and could be a potential source of infection as well as an entry point for the virus.
The authors noted that conjunctivitis "has been occasionally reported among COVID-19 symptoms, similar to infections caused by other human coronaviruses."
Researchers believe the infection may begin developing in a person's eyes before any physical symptoms begin to show, and measures should be implemented as early as possible to prevent transmission via the eyes.
Meanwhile, there are no proven agents for prophylaxis or therapy for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Prominent among those under study are chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, oral agents approved for malaria and autoimmune disorders, respectively, but concerns remain about potential cardiotoxicity.
Remdesivir, an investigational antiviral drug, has shown promise in a recently published compassionate use study. There are also efforts to use convalescent sera from COVID-19 survivors as therapy.