AIIMS has collected five eyeballs of persons who died due to the infection to study the presence of coronavirus in the cornea.

The R. P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS is conducting a study to work out the existence of the coronavirus in several parts of the eye of the one’s who have died due to the infection; J. S. Titiyal, the centre’s chief, said on Tuesday. 


In the news conference on the National Eye Bank’s 36th Eye Donation Fortnight festive, he added that they collected five eyeballs for proceeding the study.

The study of AIIMS aims to find the existence of coronavirus in the corneal tissues of patients who died due to the infection. 

Procedure of study

The AIIMS Centre team has been cautiously executing the study with the permission of family members of the deceased. The medical experts of the centre have taken the nasopharyngeal swab from 394 donors, of which ten were found positive for the infection.

For the same, the AIIMS institute collected five eyeballs of the deceased who died from covid and ten eyeballs from those who died due to another cause and later detected with the virus infection.

The research study will assist in ascertaining that the coronavirus’s existence in the cornea, optic nerve and retina of COVID-19 infected deceased, added Mr Titiyal. 

They are proceeding with this study by performing viral particle analysis to find out the genetics of the virus in the tissues. The procedure will take a few months to get finalized. It involves a thorough investigation; the eyeballs have been cautiously taken out of the patients and preserved in a safe container. 

Namrata Sharma, Professor of Ophthalmology Department of the R. P. Centre, said that no proven evidence creates any direct link between COVID-19 resulting in blindness. “Because of COVID-19, cases of conjunctivitis have been reported, but that does not lead to vision loss. COVID-19 leads to mucormycosis, and there have been cases where it has impacted vision and lead to blindness”. 

Namrata added that post-mortem nasopharyngeal swab RT-PCR testing is performed for all the donors to ensure extreme safety. The tissues recovered between July 2020 and July 2021its noticed that 5.5 per cent of the assumed COVID-19 negative donors were tested positive in RT-PCR with the covid virus. And the tissues collected from the donors were used for microbiological analysis instead of using for corneal transplantation. 

The collection process of corneal tissue resumed in July 2020 and was raised by January 2021. The gathering figures declined at an increasing rate until May 2021. Later with the emergence of the second wave of the pandemic, it shows an ascending trend again.

Protective Measures

Reinitiating corneal recovery in this pandemic required the NEB to train all staff, including counsellors and paramedic personnel, regarding personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, PPE, etc. And an extra step of reclamation of the nasopharyngeal swab for RT-PCR from the donor.

The AIIMS centre is executing the corneal tissue retrievals in adherence to the agreed COVID-19 preventive guiding principle. Still, now none of the staff of the R. P. centre has been infected during the process of tissue retrieval.


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