The Shocking New Way You Can Get the Coronavirus
COVID-19 can enter your body through more than just your nose and mouth.
Every day, we're learning new information about the coronavirus. Of course, you've heard by now that the virus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces or even through droplets in the air from the cough or sneeze of someone with COVID-19. And you've also likely heard that most of the time, the virus enters your body when you touch your mouth or nose with contaminated hands. But new research suggests that there's another entry point for the coronavirus, as well: your eyes. In a recent study out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, researchers found that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the eyes—and yes, that includes your tears.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, deduced that your eyes produce ACE2, a receptor enzyme that the coronavirus latches onto to get into the body. These receptors act as "gateways" into your cells. So what does that mean for your eyes? Well, if an infected person were to sneeze or cough around you and those droplets were to land near your eye, the coronavirus could enter your body through your eyes and infiltrate your cells. Or if you were to touch your eyes with contaminated hands—in the same way you may touch your mouth and infect yourself—you could also catch the coronavirus.
Additionally, the researchers found that your eyes could be a secondary site of the infection—meaning, just as the virus infects your respiratory tract, it may infect your eyes. That could explain why, according to a JAMA Ophthalmology study published on Mar. 31, nearly 30 percent of COVID-19 patients studied had conjunctivitis, better known as pink eye.
The Johns Hopkins study also found that the coronavirus has been reported in the tears of patients with COVID-19. So your tears could be carrying the coronavirus and could result in transmission to other individuals in the same way that saliva from your mouth or mucus from your nose could spread contaminated droplets.
"Infection of ocular surface cells could lead to the eye as being an important carrier," the researchers wrote. "Our study therefore highlights the importance of safety practices in the general community to prevent infection and spread and need for extra caution among ophthalmologists." And for more factors that may make you susceptible to COVID-19, check out This Blood Type Makes You More at Risk for Coronavirus.