Coronavirus is present in tears, according to Italian research

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, is also active in the eye secretions of positive patients and, therefore, may be another source of contagion, according to research carried out by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases "Lazzaro Spallanzani" of Rome.

The study, published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, describes that, after an eye sample taken three days after the admission of a positive patient, hospitalized at the Spallanzani hospital in late January and who had bilateral conjunctivitis, the Spallanzani researchers they managed to isolate the virus.

This shows that in addition to the respiratory system, it is also capable of replicating in the conjunctivae, the study adds.

It is a discovery, they explain in a note from the Spallanzani hospital, which also has important implications for public health, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) requested information from the research when it was still in the preliminary phase.

"This research shows that the eyes are not only one of the gateways for the virus to enter the body, but also a potential source of contagion," said Concetta Castilletti, director of the Emerging Viruses Operational Unit at the Spallanzani Virology Laboratory. .

For this reason, they highlight "the need for the appropriate use of protection devices in situations such as ophthalmic examinations that were considered relatively safe compared to the risks of contagion that this virus represents."

Spallanzani's research also highlighted that eye samples can be positive when the nasal ones no longer show traces of the virus: in fact, the patient under investigation, three weeks after admission, was now negative for the nasal test, but still weakly. positive in the eyepiece, and also 27 days after hospitalization.

They explain that now "more studies will be needed to verify how long the virus remains active and potentially infectious in tears."

The president of the Italian Association of Ophthalmologists (AIMO), Luca Menabuoni, drew attention to "the need for proper use of protective devices during eye exams."

Now more than ever, according to Italian ophthalmologists, it is necessary "to prepare suitable devices for doctors and nurses, respiratory filter masks for sanitary use type FFP2, glasses, masks and protective visors, disposable gloves and gowns".