Recent study suggests that spectacle wearers may be less susceptible to COVID-19
A recent paper in the American Medical Association Journal of Ophthalmology (JAMA Ophthalmology) reported on a cohort study of 276 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Suizhou, China. The study showed that the proportion of inpatients with COVID-19 who wore glasses for extended daily periods (greater than 8 hours per day) was smaller (5.8%) than that in the general population (31.5%), suggesting that daily wearers of glasses may be less susceptible to COVID-19. The authors hypothesized that this finding could be because spectacle wearers touch their eyes less frequently than the ten times on average an hour that non-spectacle wearers touch their eyes. Note that the authors did not include hospital patients with presbyopia in their study as it was reasoned that these patients may not have worn glasses for more than 8 hours per day.
Optometry Australia (OA) has advised that caution needs to be taken when interpreting the results of this study, given the small sample size and the fact that the authors failed to show that the results were statistically significant. OA’s Chief Clinical Officer Luke Arundel stresses that it is important to remain aware of the limitations of this single epidemiologic study and that more studies are needed to understand if there is a link – and if so, what the link is – and to provide additional evidence.
In a Commentary in JAMA Ophthalmology in the same issue that featured the results of this study, Dr Lisa Maragakis, a leading infectious diseases expect from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, also cautions that we must be careful to avoid inferring a causal relationship from a single observatory study. Dr Maragakis points out that the study is provocative in that it raises the possibility that use of glasses and eye protection by the public might offer some degree of protection from COVID-19. Dr Maragakis goes on to say that more retrospective and prospective studies are needed to confirm the findings observed in this study and to determine whether there is any incremental benefit to wearing spectacles or other forms of eye protection in public settings.