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EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-332465


Background: Respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, can infect the eyes or pass into the nose via the nasolacrimal duct. The importance of transmission via the eyes is unknown but might plausibly be reduced in those who wear glasses. Previous studies have mainly focussed on protective eyewear in healthcare settings. Methods Participants from the Virus Watch prospective community cohort study in England and Wales responded to a questionnaire on the use of glasses and contact lenses. This included frequency of use, purpose, and likelihood of wearing a mask with glasses. Infection was confirmed through data linkage with Second Generation Surveillance System (Pillar 1 and Pillar 2), weekly questionnaires to self-report positive polymerase chain reaction or lateral flow results, and, for a subgroup, monthly capillary blood testing for antibodies (nucleocapsid and spike). A multivariable logistic regression model, controlling for age, sex, income and occupation, was used to identify odds of infection depending on the frequency and purpose of using glasses or contact lenses. Findings 19,166 Virus Watch participants responded to the questionnaire, with 13,681 (71.3%, CI 70.7-72.0) reporting they wore glasses. A multivariable logistic regression model showed a 15% lower odds of infection for those who reported using glasses always for general use (OR 0.85, 95% 0.77-0.95, p = 0.002) compared to those who never wore glasses. The protective effect was reduced in those who said that wearing glasses interfered with mask wearing. No protective effect was seen for contact lens wearers. Interpretation People who wear glasses have a moderate reduction in risk of COVID-19 infection highlighting the importance of the eye as a route of infection. Eye protection may make a valuable contribution to the reduction of transmission in community and healthcare settings.