How deadly coronavirus can enter the body through the EYES: Scientists find eye cells are a prime target for the deadly virus to attach to
A new study has warned that Coronavirus can enter the body through your eyes, after discovering that they contain a protein used by the infection to bind to cells.
And a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered that the eyes contain a protein called ACE-2, which is making them a target for the virus.
ACE-2, known as the ‘gateway’ for coronavirus, can also be found in the respiratory tract and the lungs.
So, the study was publish on bioRxiv, and the researchers, led by Lingli Zhou of the Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, wrote: “Ocular surface cells including conjunctiva are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2, and could therefore serve as a portal of entry as well as a reservoir for person-to-person transmission of this virus.”
And in the research, the team analysed 10 post-mortem eyes from people who did not die of coronavirus.
Their analysis showed that ACE-2 was present in all 10 eyes, including in the cornea, inside the eyelids and in the white of the eye.
As a result of this discovery, the researchers are urging the public to be vigilant about wearing masks while out in public.
These receptors are found in the respiratory tract and the lungs, which is where the virus first infiltrates cells, as well as other organs.
Also, what this means is that if droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough were to land on the surface of the eye, the virus could begin infiltrating cells there.
They added: “Infection of ocular surface cells could lead to the eye as being an important carrier, with ocular virus shedding constituting a significant mechanism for infection of other individuals.
“Our study therefore highlights the importance of safety practices in the general community to prevent infection and spread (hygiene, face masks) and need for extra caution among ophthalmologists.”
And this research is coming shortly after one Chelsey Earnest, a nurse at the Life Care Centre in Washington, revealed that red eyes may be a key sign of coronavirus.
But the American Academy of Ophthalmology explained: “If you see someone with pink eye, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that person is infected with coronavirus.
“But health officials believe viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, develops in about 1% to 3% of people with coronavirus.
“The virus can spread by touching fluid from an infected person’s eyes, or from objects that carry the fluid.”
It may explain why some patients have suffered conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the eye which causes it to become red and infected.
Also, not only that coronavirus CAN enter the body through the eyes, but tears may serve as a spread of infection, scientists said.
ACE-2 is understood to be the entry point for the virus. Its spiky surface binds to the receptors and, from there, infects the cell and replicates.
So, it’s shows that patient with more ACE-2 receptors may be more susceptible to a large viral load – first infectious dose of a virus – entering their bloodstream.
The researcher also looked for TMPRSS2, an enzyme which helps viral entry following binding of the viral spike protein to ACE2.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 must both be present in the same cell for the virus to effectively replicate.
And all eye specimens expressed ACE-2 in the tissue which lines the inside of the eyelids, known as conjunctiva, the clear outer layer of the eye, called the cornea, and the limbus, which is the border between the cornea and the white of the eye.
Also, TMPRSS2 was expressed, according to the pre-print paper on MedRxiv yet to be reviewed by other scientists.
The research was triggered by ‘extensive speculation’ that eye surfaces are a possible site of virus entry.
But we know that the virus primarily spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose from an infected person lands on the insides of another person’s nose or mouth, scientists have said it’s entirely possible it could enter through the eye.
So, reports have showed that COVID-19 may cause conjunctivitis, which was a symptom in around 30 per cent of patients in one study.
And the researchers said that this could be because of the virus travelling from the respiratory tract to the eyes – a secondary complication often linked with a virus.
But it could also be a direct result of the virus attacking the eye cells in the first place by binding to ACE-2 receptors.
Interestingly, Dr Zhou noted that viral particles can be found in tears that ‘could result in transmission to other individuals’.
And they wrote ‘Infection of ocular surface cells could lead to the eye as being an important carrier, with ocular virus shedding constituting a significant mechanism for infection of other individuals,’
In fact, this study has highlighted the importance of safety practices including social distancing, face masks and ocular contact precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19 disease.’
So, medics on the pandemic frontline are enjoined to wear goggles or face visors in order to protect their eyes.
And according to Paul Kellam, professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London, told MailOnline at the time it was “absolutely possible”. “if you have droplets sneezed at you, they will wash from your eye to your nose,’ ‘Your eye connects to your nose through the lacrimal duct.
‘If you suffer from allergies and if your eyes run, so will your nose. Or if you put medication in your eyes, you’ll taste at the back of your throat.
‘It isn’t unusual for flu and other viruses to be transmitted this way. You can also get respiratory infections through the eye.’
Also, the American Academy of Ophthalmology said that coronavirus can spread through the eyes, so you’re most likely to inhale these droplets through your mouth or nose, but they can also enter through your eyes.
So, for everyone’s health and safety, eye clinics are being urged not to see patients during the coronavirus pandemic except for urgent or emergency care.
How To Help Yourself And Others
Experts advise you to guard your eyes as well as your hands and mouth as this can slow the spread of coronavirus.
Practice safe hygiene, boost your immune system and social distancing, wearing glasses may add a layer of protection and avoid rubbing your eyes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these general guidelines to slow the spread of disease:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- You should especially wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.
- If you can’t get to a sink, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face — particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover your face with your elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, throw it away promptly. Then go wash your hands.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. If you think someone has a respiratory infection, it’s safest to stay 6 feet away.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items in your house, such as doorknobs and counter tops.