Retina safe from COVID-19, says study

21 Oct 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) does not seem to have any retinal manifestations, reports a recent study.

Forty-three severe COVID-19 pneumonia patients (median age, 70 years; 58.1 percent male) were enrolled in a cross-sectional analysis and were subjected to a bedside ophthalmologic evaluation, including ocular fundus examination and quantitative assessment of corneal sensitivity.

Participants were admitted to the hospital after a median of 4 days from onset of COVID-19 symptoms, and the ophthalmological screening was conducted a median 21.5 days later. Laboratory tests showed generally high levels of the C-reactive protein (CRP) and low lymphocyte counts, indicative of systemic inflammation.

Regardless, researchers found no retinal manifestations related to COVID-19. One patient had unilateral posterior chorioretinitis, though it was deemed to be unrelated to SARS-CoV-2 infection, with no virus particles detected in the aqueous humor. Instead, the condition was due to Candida parapsilosis infection and gradually improved with systemic antifungal therapy. The patient died 4 weeks later due to COVID-19 pneumonia.

SARS-CoV-2 infection also did not seem to affect the ocular anterior segment. Three cases of bilateral conjunctivitis were reported, though polymerase chain reaction testing of conjunctival swabs all returned negative while nasopharyngeal testing still indicated an active infection.

“[F]uture studies investigating retinal involvement in COVID-19 patients should consider the use of diagnostic tools, such as optical coherence tomography or fluorescein angiography, to confirm our findings,” the researchers said.

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