Are eyes a ‘reservoir’ for Zika virus?

People infected with Zika could carry the virus in their eyes and spread it through tears, a recent study of mice suggests.

Are eyes a ‘reservoir’ for Zika virus?

The Zika virus is able to live in the eyes, a new mice study found, a possible explanation for red eyes and even blindness in some patients.

Researchers had infected mice by an injection under the skin, emulating how humans could get the disease from an Aedes mosquito.

Seven days later, the live Zika virus was found in the rodents’ eyes. The study was subsequently published in journal Cell Reports.

“Our study suggests that the eye could be a reservoir for Zika virus,” said Professor Michael Diamond from the Washington University School of Medicine.

“We need to consider whether people with Zika have infectious virus in their eyes and how long it actually persists,” he added.

How the virus settles in the eyes is unclear, but researchers said in a statement that Zika may have overcome “the blood-retina barrier that separates the eye from the bloodstream, traveling along the optic nerve that connects the brain and the eye.”

While the same live strain was not found in the rodents’ tears, genetic material from Zika was present 28 days after an infection.

“Even though we didn’t find live virus in mouse tears, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be infectious in humans,” said lead author Jonathan Miner, from the Washington University School of Medicine.

“There could be a window of time when tears are highly infectious and people are coming in contact with it and able to spread it,” he told AFP.

The Zika virus has mild effects on most adults, with symptoms including fever, a rash and conjunctivitis.

Infection during pregnancy could cause microcephaly, where babies are born with small heads, and other brain defects.

Check out AFP for the full report.

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