A group of ophthalmologists from Wuhan described a case from practice: particles of a pathogen were found inside the cells of the eyes of a woman who had had a coronavirus. According to doctors, the eye can be a target organ for SARS-Cov-2, just like the lungs.
According to a case study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, a 64-year-old Chinese woman was diagnosed with the coronavirus in early February. The woman was hospitalized and spent more than two weeks in the hospital, after which her complete recovery was confirmed by two negative PCR tests. Eight days later, she developed acute pain in her left eye, three days later, her right eye also became ill, and her vision deteriorated.
Doctors diagnosed an acute attack of glaucoma, which occurs due to excess fluid accumulation. The increased eye pressure could not be relieved with medication, and surgery was required. However, ten days later, the doctors had to undergo a second operation due to an uncontrolled increase in pressure in the right eye.
The researchers examined tissue samples from the patient’s eye, comparing them to samples from a glaucoma patient who did not have coronavirus, to be sure. The analysis revealed SARS-Cov-2 antigens and viral proteins on the iris and conjunctiva and mucous membranes of the eye.
“We found fragments of the capsid (note: the outer shell of the virus, consisting of proteins) SARS-Cov-2 inside the cells of the eyes of a patient who had recovered. The data obtained indicate that the coronavirus is capable of infecting not only the cells of the lungs and other organs, but also the tissues of the eye, ”the authors write.
Note that this is not the first such case. In April, Italian doctors discovered the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the eye secretions of a 65-year-old woman who returned from Wuhan. On the sixth day after arrival, she was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of a new coronavirus infection. The illness was accompanied by conjunctivitis, which ended on the 20th day of illness.
Doctors took a swab from the patient’s eye on the third day of her hospital stay. The PCR test showed that it contains SARS-CoV-2. Scientists repeated the test every day: the virus was detected for 21 days in a row, then it was detected again once on day 27. The pathogen lasted longer in eye swabs than in nasal swabs.
The scientists also found that the viruses they found in the patient’s ocular secretions were viable, meaning that the eyes can be not only a gateway to infection, but also a potential source of its spread.