Scientists have claimed the coronavirus can enter the body through the eyes after finding they contain a protein used by the infection to bind to cells.
The coronavirus – scientifically called SARS-CoV-2 – latches onto ACE-2 receptors, known as the ‘gateway’ into cells inside the body.
These receptors are found in the respiratory tract and the lungs, which is where the virus first infiltrates cells, as well as other organs.
A team led by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have now found the eyes produce ACE-2, making them a target for the virus.
It means if droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough were to land on the surface of the eye, the virus could begin infiltrating cells there.
It may explain why some patients have suffered conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the eye which causes it to become red and infected.
Not only could the virus enter the body through the eyes, but tears may serve as a spread of infection, scientists said.
The team was led by Lingli Zhou of the Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.
They analysed ten human post-mortem eyes from people who did not die of COVID-19 for the expression of ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2).
ACE-2 is understood to be the entry point for the virus. Its spiky surface binds to the receptors and, from there, infects the cell and replicates.
It’s suggested that someone with more ACE-2 receptors may be more susceptible to a large viral load – a first infectious dose of a virus – entering their bloodstream.
The team also looked for TMPRSS2, an enzyme that helps viral entry following binding of the viral spike protein to ACE2.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 must both be present in the same cell for the virus to effectively replicate.
All eye specimens expressed ACE-2 in the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelids, called the conjunctiva, the clear outer layer of the eye, called the cornea, and the limbus, which is the border between the cornea and the white of the eye.
TMPRSS2 was also expressed, according to the pre-print paper on MedRxiv yet to be reviewed by other scientists.
Dr Zhou and colleagues wrote: ‘Together, these results indicate that ocular surface cells including conjunctiva are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2, and could, therefore, serve as a portal of entry as well as a reservoir for person-to-person transmission of this virus.’
The research was triggered by ‘extensive speculation’ that eye surfaces are a possible site of virus entry.
Although the virus primarily spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose from an infected person lands on the insides of another person’s nose or mouth, scientists have said it’s entirely possible it could enter through the eye.
Reports have suggested that COVID-19 may cause conjunctivitis, which was a symptom in around 30 per cent of patients in one study.
The researchers explained this could be as a result of the virus travelling from the respiratory tract to the eyes – a secondary complication often linked with a virus.
But it could also be a direct result of the virus attacking the eye cells in the first place by binding to ACE-2 receptors.
Dr Zhou noted that viral particles can be found in tears that ‘could result in transmission to other individuals’.
‘Infection of ocular surface cells could lead to the eye as being an important carrier, with ocular virus shedding constituting a significant mechanism for infection of other individuals,’ they wrote.
‘This highlights the importance of safety practices including face masks and ocular contact precautions in preventing the spread of COVID-19 disease.’
It was not specified if the general population would benefit at all from eye protection, or if the academics meant health workers specifically.
Medics on the pandemic frontline are supposed to wear goggles or face visors in order to protect their eyes.
Doctors first warned the killer coronavirus could be spread through the eyes in January, when the epicentre was in Wuhan, China, and had reached only a handful of other countries.
Just 26 patients have died in the outbreak in China when doctor Wang Guangfa said he thought he had contracted the SARS-like infection because he wasn’t wearing protective goggles.
Several days before the onset of pneumonia, Dr Wang – a Peking University respiratory specialist – complained of redness of the eyes.
Paul Kellam, professor of virus genomics at Imperial College London, told MailOnline at the time it was ‘absolutely possible’.
‘If you have droplets sneezed at you, they will wash from your eye to your nose,’ he told MailOnline. ‘Your eye connects to your nose through the lacrimal duct.
‘If you suffer from allergies and if your eyes run, so will your nose. Or if you put medication in your eyes, you’ll taste at the back of your throat.
‘It isn’t unusual for flu and other viruses to be transmitted this way. You can also get respiratory infections through the eye.’
Covid-19: 20 patients discharged in Abuja
No fewer than twenty (20) COVID-19 patients have been discharged from the Isolation Centres in the FCT.
The Federal Capital Territory Authority, FCTA, disclosed this in a tweet via its Twitter handle on Friday night.
The Administration explained that the patients were cleared to reunite with their families following their successful treatment.
The tweet reads:
“On July 2nd, 20 #COVID19 patients were discharged from the Isolation Centres in the FCT following their successful treatment. They have now been reunited with their families.
“The total number of discharged patients in the FCT is now 459.”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is 27,564, according to the NCDC.
COVID-19: Lagos to charge face mask defaulters to court
The Lagos State Government says it will start charging face mask defaulters to court from next week, as the period of grace was over.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said this while briefing newsmen on the update of the COVID-19 management in the state on Friday.
Sanwo-Olu said that at this phase in the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic, taking personal responsibility was now more important than ever.
He said that such personal responsibility was not only for self-protection but also for protecting other people, including loved ones.
According to him, mask usage is mandatory in public places as a strategy to curb the spread of the virus.
”We are asking offices, business and commercial premises to refuse entry to any persons not wearing masks in line with the Presidential Task Force directive on ”No mask, no entry”.
”No mask, no service enforcement agencies will from this week charge defaulters to court, as the period of grace is now over.
”Dear Lagosians, please continue to wash your hands regularly. As much as possible, maintain social distancing, especially in public places.
”On our part as a government, we will continue to do everything possible to protect and uphold the health and wellbeing of the people of the state,” the governor said.
Sanwo-Olu further said that the state government was committed to scaling up testing and isolation capacity and enforcing the guidelines issued.
”With regards to enforcement, we are increasing our focus and efforts in this area. As you all know, guidelines and directives are effective only to the extent to which they are complied with by the citizenry.
”The best laws and guidelines are of no use if they are disregarded by the people for whom they have been issued.
”Lagos State belongs to all of us. We must join hands to ensure that we defeat this virus,” he said.
The governor noted that the state’s COVID-19 hotline remained 08000CORONA.
He added that the hotline was available round the clock for people to make reports, seek testing and for infected persons to gain access to counseling and psychological support during the period of isolation and treatment.
Nigeria records 454 new COVID-19 cases, total now 27,564
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has announced 454 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 27,564.
Twelve deaths were recorded from the virus on Friday bringing the total number of confirmed deaths from the virus to 628.
There was a drop in the number of confirmed cases reported on Friday (454) compared to what was reported on Thursday (626).
The health agency in a tweet Friday night said the new cases were reported in 19 states.
These are Lagos, Edo, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ondo, Benue, Abia, Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna, Delta, Enugu, Borno, Plateau, Nasarawa, Kano, Bauchi, Gombe Katsina, and the Kogi States.
All the reporting states already had at least a case of the virus.
As of the time of reporting, 35 states and the FCT have recorded at least a case of the disease. Only one state, Cross River, is yet to officially report any case of the virus although there are controversies about it.
Newsmen reported on Friday that five new confirmed cases of COVID -19 had been diagnosed at the University of Calabar. This brings the total unofficial reported cases in the state to six.
However, the Cross River State Government has insisted that there are no confirmed cases of the virus within its territory.
Lagos remains the epicenter of the disease in the country. Zamfara has not reported any new confirmed case in the past 46 days.
“To date, 27, 546 cases have been confirmed, 11, 069 cases have been discharged and 628deaths have been recorded in 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory,” the NCDC stated.
The 454 new cases were reported from 19 states: Lagos – 87, Edo – 63, FCT – 60, Ondo – 41, Benue – 32, Abia – 31, Ogun – 29, Oyo – 19, Kaduna – 17, Delta – 16, Enugu – 15, Borno – 14, Plateau – 9, Nasarawa – 8, Kano – 5, Bauchi – 4, Gombe – 2, Katsina – 1 and Kogi – 1.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria in February, NCDC said 144, 833 samples have so far been tested.
A breakdown of the 27, 564 confirmed cases shows that Lagos State has so far reported 10, 910 cases, followed by FCT – 2, 080, Oyo – 1, 451, Kano – 1, 262, Edo – 1, 269, Delta – 1, 165, Rivers – 1, 114, Ogun –927, Kaduna – 835, Katsina – 579, Bauchi – 516, Gombe – 513, Borno – 515, Ebonyi – 483, Plateau – 402, Ondo – 394, Imo – 352, Abia – 482, Enugu – 357, Jigawa – 318, Kwara – 369, Bayelsa – 324, Nasarawa – 221, Sokoto – 152, Osun – 148, Niger – 116, Akwa Ibom – 104, Adamawa – 89, Kebbi – 81, Zamfara – 76, Anambra – 73, Benue – 97, Yobe – 61, Ekiti – 43, Taraba – 19 and Kogi – 5.
The Director-General, NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, on Thursday, said, “Statistics show the major drivers of COVID-19 spread are the younger populations, however people with underlying medical conditions and the elderly are most vulnerable.”
He explained during the Presidential Task Force briefing on Friday that NCDC data showed that most cases are in people aged 20-40, while most deaths are in those above 50
He said people over 50 years and those with preexisting medical conditions like diabetes are at a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19.
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