Patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) may present or eventually develop central nervous system and ophthalmic signs and symptoms. Varying reports have emerged regarding isolation of viral RNA from these tissue sites, as well as largely autopsy-based histopathologic descriptions of the brain and the eye in patients with COVID-19.
A primary literature search was performed in literature databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane Library. Keywords were used alone and in combination including the following: SARS CoV-2, COVID-19, eye, brain, central nervous system, histopathology, autopsy, ocular pathology, aqueous, tears, vitreous, neuropathology, and encephalitis.
The reported ophthalmic pathologic and neuropathologic findings in patients with SARS-CoV-2 are varied and inconclusive regarding the role of direct viral infection vs secondary pathology. The authors own experience with autopsy neuropathology in COVID-19 patients is also described. There is a particular paucity of data regarding the histopathology of the eye. However, it is likely that the ocular surface is a potential site for inoculation and the tears a source of spread of viral particles.
Additional large postmortem studies are needed to clarify the role of SARS-CoV in the ophthalmic and neuropathologic manifestations of COVID-19.