Ocular involvement in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): a clinical and molecular analysis

Asaf Shemer, Adi Einan-Lifshitz, Amir Itah, Biana Dubinsky-Pertzov, Eran Pras, Idan Hecht*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused a global pandemic with millions infected worldwide. Little is known on the ocular involvement associated with the disease. The aim of this study was to assess the clinical and molecular ocular involvement among patients with confirmed COVID-19 admitted to a tertiary care facility. Methods: Consecutive patients admitted to the COVID-19 Ward of the Shamir Medical Center in Israel during March and April, 2020 were included. The control group included patients negative for COVID-19 admitted during a similar period to a different ward. Patients were examined by trained Ophthalmologists. SARS-CoV-2 conjunctival swab samples were obtained. Results: Included were 48 patients, 16 with confirmed COVID-19 and 32 controls. Median patient age was 68.5 (interquartile range: 31.5, mean: 63 ± 21) years and 48% were male. Active conjunctival injection was present in three patients (19%) with COVID-19, compared to none in the controls (p = 0.034). Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to complain of foreign body sensation (31.3% vs 3.1%, p = 0.005) and redness of the eye (25% vs 0%, p = 0.003). Conjunctival injection was associated with loss of smell and taste (75% vs 7.7%, p = 0.018). Viral conjunctival swab tests all showed negative results for all three viral genes tested (E, N, and RdRp). Conclusions: Among patients admitted to a tertiary referral center with confirmed COVID-19, active conjunctival injection was noted in one out of five cases, and was associated with loss of smell and taste. Conjunctival swabs for viral RNA were negative in patients with and without ocular involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-440
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Ophthalmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • 2019-nCoV
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Ocular
  • SARS-CoV-2


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