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Study finds low prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in eye bank samples


Investigators say study validates the importance of history-based donor screening while also demonstrating that postmortem PCR testing as a criterion for procurement and subsequent use of tissue isn’t necessary.

The prevalence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in human ocular tissues samples obtained post-mortem was found to be especially low in the samples that were considered suitable for corneal recovery and transplantation, according to Sunita Chaurasia, MS, from the Cornea Institute, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India, and colleagues, who believe that this knowledge is important for eye bank protocols.

The investigators used reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction to detect the virus in corneal rims and conjunctival tissue obtained from 100 donors. They also assessed the clinical history and cause of death of the donors.

The study1 included 100 corneal and 100 conjunctival tissue samples that had been obtained from eyes of 100 surgical-intended donors from September 2020 to April 2021.

“The overall positivity rate for SARS-CoV-2 was ∼1%, that is, 2 of 200 samples. Both of the ocular samples that tested positive were conjunctival biopsies (2/100, 2%),” investigators said.

All corneal samples were negative for the virus in both donors.

The causes of death of the donors were as follows: 51 patients died as the result of trauma, 33 suicide, 7 cardiac arrest, 5 electric shock, 2 a metabolic cause, 1 malignancy, and 1 snake bite, the investigators reported. None of the medical histories of the donors suggested that they had a. COVID infection or possible contact with someone who was positive for the virus. In addition, none of the patients who were recipients of the ocular tissue, had a systemic adverse event after keratoplasty out to the follow-up evaluation at 6 weeks.

Chaurasia and colleagues concluded that the low positive prevalence rate in this study both “validated the criticality of history-based donor screening and do not support the necessity of postmortem PCR testing as a criterion for procurement and subsequent use for corneal transplantation.”


Chaurasia S, Rudraprasad D, Senagari JR, et al. Clinical utility of COVID-19 real time-polymerase chain reaction testing of ocular tissues of non–COVID-19 cornea donors deemed suitable for corneal retrieval and transplantation. Cornea 2021; published online October 20, 2021; https://journals.lww.com/corneajrnl/toc/9000/00000

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