Can COVID-19 causing Coronavirus be transmitted through the eyes? The answer is, yes.
The eyes have a "gateway" protein that let the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) enter the body, according to several studies published in scientific journals in the US and China.
Eyes have "gateway" protein
In one of the studies conducted by John's Hopkins university school of medicine, researchers found that the eyes create a "gateway" protein called ACE-2 that let the deadly virus attach to it and enter the body, the Mirror reported.
"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," according to the lead researcher of the study, Lingli Zhou.
It is the same protein also found in the respiratory tract and lungs which the virus attaches to and enter the body and replicate.
Transmission of coronavirus through the eyes first noticed in January
Transmission of coronavirus through eyes was suspected by the scientists for some time, more specifically in January when Wuhan was still the epicentre of the disease. An observation to the same effect that eyes could be the potential server of transmitting the virus first came from a Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, who later died of the disease, "believed he contracted from an asymptotic glaucoma patient."
And more recently, a US virologist caught the virus on a flight from New York to New Orleans. He said that he took maximum precaution and wore masks and gloves, but didn't wear anything to protect his eyes. He suspected that he contracted the virus through his eyes.
These and many more studies and cases of conjunctivitis or pink eye in COVID-19 patients around the world have now confirmed that coronavirus can be transmitted through eyes.
How does coronavirus enter through your eyes?
There are mainly two ways through which the virus can enter the eyes. One, when someone sneezes or coughs and you stand close to that person, there are chances the droplets from the infected person would reach to your eyes if you don't protect your eyes.
Secondly, if you touch any surface on which there was the virus and then touch back your face or eyes, the virus can enter your body through your eyes. This may be why some patients have developed conjunctivitis and epiphora, reports a study from the American Journal of Managed Care. Though not highly like, tears may also spread COVID-19 virus.
What are the chances of COVID 19 transmitting through the eyes?
Contracting coronavirus through eyes is not very common but also cannot be dismissed entirely. Though nose and mouths are still the major way of transmitting the virus through droplets, enough data about the infection spreading through eyes is awaited.
How to protect the eyes from the coronavirus?
As scientists are studying and becoming more aware of how the virus is transmitting, new information is providing insights on what measures we can take to protect ourselves from catching the virus.
With new information, it has become clear that we need to protect our eyes from the coronavirus. But what measures we need to take would depend on where we are.
If going out in public places where social distancing cannot be practised then it would be advisable to wear glasses or goggles, as you never when other people would cough or sneeze. Wearing eye protection would save you from droplets to your eyes. Also, we need to wear glasses if and when attending any I'll person in the house. For the rest of the places, keeping 6 feet distance would serve the purpose.