Autopsies reveal disturbing discoveries on COVID-19 infection and your eyes

After reading this new study you’ll want to adhere more closely to those strict guidelines of not touching your mouth, nose, or eyes to mitigate transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This abstract is outlined by research funded by grants from the Eye Bank Association of America and the National Eye Institute along with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Here’s what the authors from this study, yet to be peer-reviewed, caution the public about preventative measures to stay vigilant towards controlling the spread of this deadly virus.

The case study

Turns out the SARS-COV-2 virus was evidently found to be prevalent in the harvested tissue from cadaver’s eyes post mortem after succumbing to COVID-19. What does this mean?

Anyone in line for a corneal transplant should exercise caution and doctors performing this life-altering procedure should ensure no tissue remains infected by this virus.

This study found in explicit detail here also outlines the fact that this virus isn’t only transmitted through human tears, as previously deduced through prior research.

“Researchers led by Onkar B. Sawant, from the Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research at Eversight, Ohio, analyzed 132 sets of ocular tissues from 33 deceased donors after they were rejected by the Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) as they had tested positive for COVID-19. Of these, 10 donors were found to have tested positive post-mortem, and the tissue samples were narrowed down to 33.”

How did researchers Onkar B Sawant, Sneha Singh, Robert Emery Wright III, Kayla M Jones, Michael S Titus, Eugene Dennis, Eric Hicks, Parag A Majmudar, Ashok Kumar, and Shahzad I Mian measure levels of the SARS-COV-2 virus in deceased donor’s corneal tissue?

Doctors harvested proteins from corneal and scleral tissues. Ocular levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, envelope, and spike proteins along with antibodies found in the post-mortem donors’ eyes were evaluated by the aforementioned researchers.

They found the positivity rate for SARS-CoV-2 RNA was 13% which means 17 out of the 132 donors tested positive for SARS-COV-2.

Out of the 10 COVID-19 donors, six had PCR positive post-mortem nasal swabs and eight of those 10 had positive antibodies tests.

When evaluating the 20 eyes recovered from 10 COVID-19 donors: three conjunctival, one anterior corneal, five posterior corneal, and three vitreous ocular swabs were positive for containing traces of the virus in their RNA, which is where this virus mutates and thrives wreaking havoc on our immune system response.

They also detected trace amounts of the virus in the epithelial layer of the cornea through the appearance of spike and envelope proteins.

SARS-CoV-2 spike and envelope proteins were detected in the epithelial layer of the donor corneas. These proteins are dangerous as they initiate infection, binding with other proteins to destabilize the host’s ability to fight off this life-threatening respiratory infection.

The findings are substantial enough to double down on screenings before transplants and it gives us more information in regards to further understanding the cause and ways this virus is transmitted to different hosts. We must also continue to be on top of sanitation efforts, hand washing, and protective eye-wear or mask-wearing efforts to combat this pandemic.

What doctors have to say in regards to public safety concerns

Denize Atan, Consultant Senior Lecturer in Ophthalmology at the University of Bristol, U.K., was interviewed by Newsweek after this abstract was publicly released. She had the following to add on the possible links to further understanding the transmission of this novel virus.

“It does highlight the fact that the surface layers of the eye (conjunctiva, cornea, sclera) and tears are a possible route for transmission of the virus.”

Most doctors were unsure about the data supporting the validity and potential to transmit this virus via an ocular transplant to be viable information to mitigate the spread by intensifying screenings of transplants but it does raise concerns in the medical community. It is a dangerous enough concern for folks dealing with complications of COVID-19 to fund more research on how exactly this virus jumps to other people.

One indicator of infection is conjunctivitis or pinkeye seen in redness and irritation on the thin membrane that protects your eye from outside environmental particles and irritants. If you experience red, itchy, watery eyes you may want to get tested. This is one of many symptoms that raise a concern about potential infection and it’s important to get tested to protect yourself, loved ones, and the community from rising infection rates.

What can you do?

Honestly, the most effective preventive measures against the novel Coronavirus are washing your hands, avoiding touching your face after going out, wearing a mask, and social distancing. Make sure you properly ventilate and sanitize surfaces in your home to be extra safe. This virus isn’t going away and if we remain on top of hygienic practices and stay knowledgeable about how this virus mutates and spreads in the news we will remain equipped to get out from under this crisis.