Respiratory Infection May Be Contracted Through The Eye

A respiratory pathogen common in newborns may be passed on to the lungs following initial infection in the eye say researchers from the University of South Alabama, College of Medicine. They report their findings in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Virology.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common infection in children also referred to as “croup”, causes common cold or flu like symptoms such as wheezing, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and asthma and annually claims the lives of millions worldwide. Currently, there is no reliable vaccine or preventative antiviral available and post-infection treatments have proven unreliable, controversial and expensive.

In the study researchers instilled RSV in the eyes of mice and monitored the progression of infection. Results showed that RSV not only replicated robustly in the eye, but it also moved into the lung causing a respiratory disease indistinguishable from nasally acquired RSV.

“These results establish the eye as a major gateway of respiratory infection and a respiratory virus as a bona fide eye pathogen, thus offering novel intervention and treatment options” say the researchers.

(V. Bitko, A. Musiyenko, S. Barik. 2006. Viral infection of the lungs through the eye. Journal of Virology, 81. 2: 783-790)

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Contact: Carrie Patterson

American Society for Microbiology