Data from 38 patients infected with COVID-19 from Hubei Province, China, found 12 individuals (31.6 percent) had ocular manifestations, including epiphora, conjunctival congestion, or chemosis, according to a report published by JAMA Ophthalmology.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology had earlier stated that some reports suggest “the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with (the) conjunctiva.”
Now, a newly released study, this one by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has found eyes and surrounding tissue produce the enzyme ACE-2, making them a target for the virus.
COVID-19 latches onto ACE-2 receptors, known as the "gateway" into cells inside body, meaning droplets from an infected person were to land on the eye, the virus could begin infiltrating cells there.
ACE-2 receptors are also found in the lungs and respiratory tract.
The Hopkins study also found that TMPRSS2, another enzyme that helps COVID-19 pass through blood vessels and pores is also present in eyes.
University of Hong Kong researchers also found that the eyes are an important route for COVID-19 to enter the body.
The findings reinforce advice to the public not to touch their eyes without thoroughly washing their hands first and could further demonstrate that it may be helpful to wear goggles or glasses as a preventive measure.
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