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Experts: SARS virus could spread through tears
Updated: 2004-06-21 13:19

Researchers have discovered the SARS virus in patients' tears, which may be an indication of how the SARS virus is spread and could be detected, according to a study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Researchers collected tear samples from 36 patients in Singapore over a 12 day period in April 2003. The patients were suspected of being infected with SARS.

Among the 36 patients, eight turned out to have probable SARS. After further chemical analysis, the presence of SARS was confirmed in three of these patients. Testing also confirmed the presence of the coronavirus SARS virus in the tears of these three patients.

The authors of the study concluded, "This is the first case series reported with the detection of the SARS coronavirus from tears, and has important implications for the practice of ophthalmology and medicine. The ability to detect and isolate the virus in the early phase of the disease may be an important diagnostic tool for future patients and tear sampling is both simple and easily repeatable. Many healthcare workers are in close proximity to the eyes of patients and this may be a source of spread among healthcare workers and inoculating patients. Ophthalmic practices may need to change as more stringent barrier methods, appropriate quarantine, and isolation measures are vital when managing patients with SARS".

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