Detection of measles virus genomic RNA in tear samples from a patient with measles keratitis

Cornea. 2002 Aug;21(6):610-2. doi: 10.1097/00003226-200208000-00017.


Purpose: To report a case of measles keratitis, in which measles virus genomic RNA was detected in tear samples.

Methods: Samples of tears and pharyngeal mucus were obtained from a 19-year-old man with active systemic measles on day 7 after illness onset. These specimens were then subjected to reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), using measles-specific primers.

Results: One week after systemic measles outbreak, the patient presented with a chief complaint of irritation in both eyes. Slit-lamp examination revealed bilateral superficial punctate keratopathy in the central cornea with small diffuse subepithelial infiltrations, and RT-PCR detected measles virus genomic RNA in tears and pharyngeal mucus. The patient was treated with topical 0.1% fluorometholone and 0.5% levofloxacin three times a day for 1 week, and the keratopathy resolved without sequelae.

Conclusion: This report demonstrates for the first time the presence of measles virus genomic RNA in the tears of a patient with measles keratitis. It also highlights the utility of RT-PCR for rapid detection of measles RNA in tear or mucus samples. Furthermore, the presence of virus in bodily fluids and secretions signifies the potential contagiousness of this type of keratopathy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Eye Infections, Viral / virology*
  • Humans
  • Keratitis / virology*
  • Male
  • Measles / complications*
  • Measles virus / genetics
  • Measles virus / isolation & purification*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tears / virology*


  • RNA, Viral