The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) recently announced that Ebola was discovered inside the eyes of a patient months after the virus was gone from his blood, and now the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is urging physicians to take extreme precautions when performing surgery on survivors of the deadly virus.
“The medical community has appreciated that the Ebola virus can remain viable in some body fluids for an extended period of time after the initial onset of the disease,” said Russell N. Van Gelder, MD, PhD, president of the AAO and a uveitis specialist. “This remarkable case now demonstrates that the virus can remain viable in ocular fluids long after the patient has recovered from the systemic infection.
“If the Ebola epidemic continues, ophthalmologists throughout the world will be seeing patients with post-Ebola uveitis, will need to recognize and treat this condition, and will need to take appropriate increased precautions in performing surgical procedures on these patients,” Dr. Van Gelder explained.
According to the International Business Times (IBT), Ian Crozier, MD, was flown last September to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to be treated for Ebola after contracting the deadly virus while working in Sierra Leone. After battling for his life, Dr. Crozier was declared cured and released by the hospital.
“(However,) a burning sensation in his left eye, a sensitivity to light, and the feeling that something was stuck in his eye continued to bother him. Later he suffered blurred vision, pain and inflammation, and the color of his eye turned from grey to green. When doctors tested the aqueous humor, the watery substance inside the eye, it tested positive for Ebola. It was a startling discovery for doctors who were unaware that the infection could hide and grow in the eyes after it has been vanquished elsewhere in the body,” IBT reported.
Emory physicians—who speculated that immune adaptions in the eye that guard inflammation could possibly make eyes more vulnerable to Ebola—were eventually able to save Dr. Crozier’s eyes, but it took months for his vision to recover, NPR reported.