Human coronaviruses: ophthalmic manifestations

BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2020 Nov 2;5(1):e000630. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2020-000630. eCollection 2020.


The 2019 novel coronavirus which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) known as SARS-CoV-2 still remains as a global pandemic since its discovery and continues to spread across the world, given how highly contagious the virus is. We reviewed various articles that explore eye involvement in COVID-19 and other human coronaviruses, its human manifestations in comparison to animal studies and potential mechanism of viral entry into the eye surface. Evidence of animal studies depicted various complications of coronaviruses infection into the eyes, in both anterior and posterior segments of the eye. Conjunctival inflammation remains uncommon in association with COVID-19, with other ophthalmic findings. The risk of transmission via the ocular surface remains likely low, though it is inarguably present based on preliminary finding of viral load in ocular samples and expression of ACE2 on the ocular surface. Testing the tears sample for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 was unreliable due to limitations of the testing kits and conflicting evidence of the viral titre in the ocular samples. Further larger, more precise and specific studies are required to allow us to better understand the pattern of virulence underlying the associations of SARS-CoV-2 in the eye despite its rare occurrence. This review article aims to enhance better awareness among clinicians regarding ocular manifestations associated with COVID-19 and necessary precautions should be implemented to minimise the risk of person-to-person especially in the nosocomial setting.

Keywords: conjunctiva; cornea; infection; medical education; microbiology; pathology; public health; retina.

Publication types

  • Review