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Zhejiang experts find virus in tears

By Ma Zhenhuan in Hangzhou | | Updated: 2020-02-28 18:08
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Scientists in East China's Zhejiang province have detected novel coronavirus in the tears and conjunctival secretions of an infected patient, according to an announcement from Zhejiang University on Friday.

The announcement revealed that a team of researchers from the university's First Affiliated Hospital led by Shen Ye, an ophthalmology professor, have confirmed that a sample of a patient's tears and conjunctival secretions tested positive for the virus, signaling another new possible way for the contagion to spread.

The research results were published in the Journal of Medical Virology on Wednesday.

The team conducted research on 30 confirmed cases received by the hospital from Jan 26 to Feb 2. The first six samples of tears and conjunctival secretions extracted from patients all tested negative, but these doctors continued with the research by extending observation periods and looking for patients with typical symptoms.

Eventually, they noticed that a patient was diagnosed with conjunctivitis in his left eye after being hospitalized and began to study if there was any relation between the eye ailment and the virus.

After three nucleic acid tests, doctors detected novel coronavirus in the tears and conjunctival secretions of the patient's left eye while the test result on the sample from the right eye was negative.

It can be concluded that the conjunctivitis is related to the virus and there's a risk that the virus could be transmitted through eye secretions, Shen said.

The research team at Zhejiang University will continue with the study to find out how the virus leads to conjunctivitis and whether the virus is able to exploit weaknesses in the immune system, according to the professor.

Shen suggested that given the research findings, it is now imperative for doctors to wear goggles, aside from facial masks, while conducting check-ups on suspected coronavirus patients.

In another development, the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong province announced on Thursday it detected the novel coronavirus in a patient's saliva.

Qin Jirong contributed to this story.

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