Background: There is currently a lack of information regarding ocular tropism and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Globally, the cumulative number of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases is increasing daily. Thus the potential for ocular transmission and manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 requires more investigation.
Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases for ocular transmission and manifestations of SARS-CoV-2 was performed. Pooled cross-sectional studies were used for conducting a meta-analysis to estimate the prevalence of ocular transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to the respiratory system and ocular manifestations (associated symptoms) of SARS-CoV-2.
Results: The highest prevalence of SARS-CoV-2-positive tears using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction was found to be 7.5%. However, the highest prevalence of ocular conjunctivitis associated with SARS-CoV-2 was 32%. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 can evidently infect the eye, as revealed in the conjunctival secretions of COVID-19 patients.
Conclusion: The available data reflect the influence of the ocular structure on SARS-CoV-2. The analysis showed that ocular manifestation is an indication for SARS-CoV-2, particularly conjunctivitis. Moreover, there is no evidence that the ocular structure can be an additional path of transmission for SARS-CoV-2, however, it warrants further investigation.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; conjunctival swabs; conjunctivitis; coronavirus; nasopharyngeal swabs; ocular manifestation; ocular transmission; tears.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.