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Subspecialties COVID-19, Cornea / Ocular Surface, Basic & Translational Research

Cornea Contra COVID-19

Figure 1. Rajendra Apte, Washington University School of Medicine.

Some viruses, such as herpes simplex (HSV) or Zika, can infect the cornea and use this entry point to spread to other parts of the body – especially in immunocompromised patients. Does SARS-CoV-2 have this ability?

Researchers weren’t sure until a recent study by a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, showed that the cornea appears to resist infection from the novel coronavirus. Led by Jonathan J. Miner, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology, and Pathology and Immunology and Rajendra Apte, Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine, the team exposed mouse and human corneas to the virus and identified substances in corneal tissue that inhibited viral growth.

That isn’t a free pass to take off the eye protection – it’s still unknown whether tear ducts or the conjunctiva are vulnerable to the virus – but COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted through corneal transplant or similar procedures.

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  1. JJ Miner et al., Cell Rep, 33 (2020). PMID: 33147451.
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