Ophthalmology Overview: COVID-19 Infection in Eye Cells, Vision Loss and Blindness Prevalence, and More

Authors: AJMC Staff

Highlighting the latest ophthalmology-related news reported across MJH Life Sciences™.Highlighting the latest ophthalmology-related news reported across MJH Life Sciences.

Mount Sinai Study Finds COVID-19 Can Infect Eye Cells

Although aerosol transmission is considered the primary cause of COVID-19 infection, findings from a study published this week by researchers at Mount Sinai indicates that the virus may also be transmitted through the eye, with the limbus especially susceptible.

As reported by Ophthalmology Times®, implications of COVID-19 on ocular manifestations have been seen with a previous study suggesting that the virus can cause conjunctivitis, or pink eye, along with epiphora and chemosis. The researchers of the present study sought to delve further into quantifying the entry factor of the virus and antigen expression in postmortem patients who had COVID-19.

Examining adult human eye donor cells obtained via autopsy of patients who had COVID-19. in an in vitro stem cell model, analysis via RNA sequencing confirmed that the virus infected the ocular surface cells, with the protein associated with infection, ACE2, and an enzyme that facilitates viral entry, TMPRSS2, also identified.

Assessing US Prevalence of Visual Acuity Loss, Blindness

Reported by Ophthalmology Times®, a study published last week in JAMA Ophthalmology indicates that more than 7 million people in the United States are living with uncorrectable vision loss, including more than 1 million cases of blindness.

Identifying cases across all age groups, people younger than 40 years accounted for nearly 1 in 4 cases of vision loss or blindness, with 1.6 million cases overall and 141,000 cases of blindness—13% of all people with blindness in the United States.

Notably, the estimated number of cases is a 68% increase over the previous estimate created by the 2012 Vision Problems in the US study. In delineating at-risk populations, a higher risk of vision loss was found in Hispanic/Latino and Black individuals than among White individuals, with more females than males experiencing permanent vision loss or blindness.

Inherited Retinal Disease Awareness, Benefits of Genetic Testing

This week, Prevent Blindness is holding its second annual Inherited Retinal Disease (IRD) Genetic Testing Week, in which the nonprofit is posting educational content related to IRD, a unit of diseases that can lead to severe vision loss or blindness.

Affecting patients of all ages, an article by Modern Retina highlights that because many IRD conditions are degenerative, genetic testing may help identify treatment options early in the process. Moreover, due to the retina’s physical makeup, patients with IRD are strong candidates for gene therapy treatments that can help control disease progression, particularly in at-risk children and infants.

Providing a free fact sheet on IRD, the Prevent Blindness website also lists causes, risk factors, research and therapy options, financial assistance services, and more.

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