The novel coronavirus can be transmitted through the eyes because of a protein known as the “gateway” into cells inside the body, according to a new study.
Scientists have claimed the coronavirus can enter the body through the eyes after finding they contain a protein used by the infection to bind to cells.
scientifically called SARS-CoV-2 – latches onto ACE-2 receptors, known as the ‘gateway’ into cells inside body
These receptors are found in the respiratory tract and the lungs, which is where the virus first infiltrates cells, as well as other organs.
A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that the eyes create the protein called ACE-2, making them a target for the virus, According to dailymail
It means if droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough were to land on the surface of the eye, the virus could begin infiltrating cells there.
The researchers studied 10 eyes from people who did not die of COVID-19 and discovered that ACE2 was present in all of them, including the cornea, inside the eyelids and in the white of the eye, according to the news outlet.
It may explain why some patients have suffered conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the eye which causes it to become red and infected.
Not only could the virus enter the body through the eyes, but tears may serve as a spread of infection, scientists said.
Scientists found ACE-2 was expressed in the cornea (A and B, magnified in C) and the limbus (E, magnified in F), which is the border between the cornea and the white of the eye
The team was led by Lingli Zhou of the Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
They analysed ten human post-mortem eyes from people who did not die of COVID-19 for the expression of ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2).
ACE-2 is understood to be the entry point for the virus. Its spiky surface binds to the receptors and, from there, infects the cell and replicates.
It’s suggested that someone with more ACE-2 receptors may be more susceptible to a large viral load – first infectious dose of a virus – entering their bloodstream.
The team also looked for TMPRSS2, an enzyme that helps viral entry following binding of the viral spike protein to ACE2.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 must both be present in the same cell for the virus to effectively replicate.
TMPRSS2 was also expressed, according to the pre-print paper on MedRxiv yet to be reviewed by other scientists.
Dr Zhou and colleagues wrote: ‘Together, these results indicate that 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.’
The research was triggered by ‘extensive speculation’ that eye surfaces are a possible site of virus entry.
Although the virus primarily spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose from an infected person lands on the insides of another person’s nose or mouth, scientists have said it’s entirely possible it could enter through the eye.