TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) — An estimated 1,558 to 3,217 corneal donations were disqualified in 2018 because of federal regulations prohibiting corneal donation by men who have sex with men (MSM), according to a study published online Sept. 24 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Michael A. Puente, M.D., from University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues surveyed 54 eye banks in the United States and Canada to investigate how many potential corneal donors were disqualified in 2018 due to federal MSM restrictions.

The researchers found that 30 of the 54 participating eye banks said they do not keep specific records of MSM deferrals. Of the 24 eye banks reporting, 360 referrals (720 corneas) were disqualified in 2018 because of MSM status. These 24 eye banks accounted for 46.2 percent of corneal donations in the United States and Canada in 2018, suggesting an estimated 1,558 corneas were rejected that year because of MSM status. Using published MSM demographic data, a separate estimate indicated that up to 3,217 potential corneal donations may have been disqualified because of these federal policies.

“With modern virologic testing that is reliable within days of HIV exposure and given the global shortage of corneal tissue, these policies should be reevaluated using current scientific evidence to increase the availability of vision-restoring surgery worldwide,” the authors write.

One author reported serving as a consultant for several medical companies.

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