SARS-CoV-2 on Ocular Surfaces in a Cohort of Patients with COVID-19 From the Lombardy Region, Italy

March 4, 2021

Claudio Azzolini, Simone Donati, Elias Premi, Andreina Baj, Claudia Siracusa, Angelo Genoni, Paolo A. Grossi, Lorenzo Azzi, Fausto Sessa, Francesco Dentali, Paolo Severgnini, Giulio Minoja, Luca Cabrini, Maurizio Chiaravalli, Giovanni Veronesi, Giulio Carcano, Lorenzo S. Maffioli, Angelo Tagliabue

JAMA Ophthalmology

This cross-sectional study examined the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on ocular surfaces of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in intensive care units at Sette-Laghi Hospital in Lombardy, Italy, between April 9 and May 5, 2020. A conjunctival swab was performed on 176 eyes of 91 COVID-19 patients, as well as 17 patients in a healthy control group. Specimens were examined by rRT-PCR to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2. The mean age of participants was 58.7 years and 51% of participants were female. The study found that SARS-CoV-2 was present on the ocular surface in 52 of 91 patients with COVID-19 (57.1%) compared to none of the healthy patients. The virus was present in both eyes in 31 of 52 patients. Several patients (22 of 31 [71%]) had a slight difference in viral load values between the two eyes. The authors found 10 individuals with positive conjunctival swabs who had negative nasopharyngeal swabs, suggesting the conjunctival swab may be considered as a supplementary and less invasive sampling method for diagnostic testing. The authors caution while this study detected the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on ocular surfaces, this study does not suggest anything about the infectivity of ocular material.

Azzolini C, Donati S, Premi E, et al. SARS-CoV-2 on Ocular Surfaces in a Cohort of Patients With COVID-19 From the Lombardy Region, Italy. JAMA Ophthalmol 2021; published online March. DOI:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.5464.