The SARS-CoV-2 RNA has been detected in tears and conjunctival samples from infected individuals. Conjunctivitis is also reported in a small number of cases. We evaluated ocular symptoms and ocular tropism of SARS-CoV-2 in a group of patients with COVID-19.
Fifty-six patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 were recruited as subjects. Relevant medical histories were obtained from the electronic medical record system. Ocular history and ocular symptoms data were obtained by communicating directly with the subjects. The Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and Salisbury Eye Evaluation Questionnaire (SEEQ) were used to assess the anterior ocular surface condition before and after the onset of disease.
Patients classified as severe COVID-19 cases were more likely to have hypertension compared to mild cases (p = 0.035). Of the 56 subjects, thirteen patients (23%) were infected in Wuhan, 32 patients (57%) were community-infected, 10 patients (18%) were unknown origin, 1 (2%) was a physician likely infected by a confirmed patient. Three patients wore face mask with precaution when contacting the confirmed patients. Fifteen (27%) had aggravated ocular symptoms, of which 6 (11%) had prodromal ocular symptoms before disease onset. The differences in mean scores of OSDI questionnaire and SEEQ between before and after onset of COVID-19 were all significant (p < 0.05 for both).
Ocular symptoms are relatively common in COVID-19 disease and may appear just before the onset of respiratory symptoms. Our data provided the anecdotal evidences of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via ocular surface.

© 2020 Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica Foundation. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.