Sars-CoV-2 virus particles have been identified in the retina of patients who died from complications of Covid-19. The results of the research, carried out by scientists from the federal universities of São Paulo (Unifesp) and Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), were published on the JAMA Ophthalmology portal. The information is from the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo.
The researchers removed the patients’ eyeballs and analyzed the retinal tissue. “The virus proteins were observed in the cells lining the blood vessels, near the capillary flame and in the cells of the inner and outer nuclear layers of the retina. In the perinuclear region of these cells, it was possible to observe, through transmission electron microscopy, double membrane vacuoles consistent with the virus”, said Rubens Belfort Júnior, professor at the Paulista School of Medicine at Unifesp and coordinator of the investigation.
The presence of viral particles highlights the possibility of ocular clinical manifestations of the infection and alerts to the possibility that the virus is directly related to changes in various parts of the body, including neurological ones, defend the researchers. They also raise the possibility that eye tissues constitute sanctuaries of viral persistence.
“Now it is clear that after the initial infection in the respiratory system, the virus can spread throughout the body, reaching different tissues and organs. Thus, the findings may help to elucidate the pathophysiology of the virus and its etiological mechanisms, which may allow a better understanding of the disease’s sequelae and direct some paths for future research”, said Júnior.