There is still very much we don’t know about the coronavirus that is making its way around the world.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the new virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
But what about bigger droplets, like tears?
Researchers, including those from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in Singapore, say the likelihood is small.
“It is hypothesized that the nasolacrimal system can act as a conduit for viruses to travel from the upper respiratory tract to the eye. Hence, ocular tissue and fluid may represent a potential source of SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote in the journal Opthalmology.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a betacoronavirus, according to the CDC.
For their small study, the researchers recruited 17 COVID-19 patients in Singapore. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected routinely for clinical monitoring of patients’ condition, while tear samples were collected purely for research purposes. On some days, both tears and swabs were collected at the same time. These samples were delivered to different labs for processing.
The nasopharynx, where the swab samples are taken, is the upper part of the throat that lies behind the nose. It's a box-like chamber about 1½ inches on each edge. It lies just above the soft part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate) and just in back of the nasal passages.
“A total of 64 samples were taken over the study period, with 12, 28 and 24 samples taken from first, second and third week of initial symptoms, respectively. All were tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers wrote.
“In this study, there was no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 shedding in tears through the course of the disease,” researchers said, even though swabs continued to test positive. “This suggests that transmission through tears regardless of the phase of infection is likely to be low.”
Researchers acknowledged the limitations of their small study and encouraged larger, more thorough testing.
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