To evaluate the presence of viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2 in conjunctival swab specimen of COVID-19 patients with and without conjunctivitis to establish the diagnostic value of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in each case and to describe its clinical characteristics.
Cross-sectional study conducted at the Hospital Clinico San Carlos of Madrid, Spain. 36 subjects from the COVID admission unit with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were included. Conjunctival swabs were collected from 18 patients with conjunctivitis and 18 patients without conjunctivitis. RT-PCR was performed.
Conjunctival swab was collected from both eyes of 36 patients (72 eyes), detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in conjunctival swab of two patients (5.5%). Among the 18 patients with conjunctivitis, only 1 of them (5.5%) showed positive results. Likewise, SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 1 patient without conjunctivitis (5.5%). The mean age of the 36 patients was 67.9 years (range 28-92 years) and the male-to-female ratio was 0,44 (1620). The mean days since onset of COVID-19 symptoms until conjunctivitis manifestation was 8 (range 1-24 days). The mean duration of the conjunctivitis was 3 days (range 1-7 days).
SARS-CoV-2 RNA may be detected in conjunctival swabs of both patients with and without conjunctivitis. Our study revealed the same rate of positive results amongst the group with and without conjunctivitis, suggesting that detecting SARS-CoV-2 in ocular fluids is not conditioned on the presence of conjunctivitis. The presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in ocular samples highlights the role of the eye as a possible route of transmission of the disease. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.