Zika virus can infect the eye, researchers report in a paper published today (September 15) in JAMA Opthalmology. Previous reports have linked Zika infection to severe eye disease, and an unresolved case recently raised the possibility that bodily fluids such as tears could be a means of transmission.

“Here we have some evidence when the adult is infected, it would appear that highly specialized neural tissue is infected,” William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who was not associated with the study, told ABC News.

Researchers at the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China tested the conjunctival fluid of six patients who were infected with Zika while traveling in Venezuela, and detected the presence of viral RNA. The authors do not recommend swabbing conjuctival fluid as a standard procedure for Zika screening, however, since the...

Zika has been linked to various types of damage to eyes, including inflammation and blindness in newborns. A study in mice also suggested the disease causes cell death in neurons of the visual pathway. “Every time you seem to lift up a corner there’s something else that Zika is involved in,” Schaffner told ABC News. “The more we study it, the nastier the virus becomes.”

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