Retinal manifestations have been described in COVID-19 patients, but it is unknown whether SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent in COVID-19, can directly infect posterior ocular tissues. Here, we investigate SARS-CoV-2 host factor gene expression levels and their distribution across retinal and choroidal cell types.
Query of single-cell RNA sequencing data from human retina and choroid.
We find no relevant expression of two key genes involved in SARS-CoV-2 entry, ACE2 and TMPRSS2, in retinal cell types. By contrast, scarce expression levels could be detected in choroidal vascular cells.
Given the current understanding of viral host cell entry, these findings suggest a low vulnerability of the posterior eye segment to SARS-CoV-2 with a potential weak spot in the vasculature, which could play a putative causative role in ocular lesions in COVID-19 patients. This may qualify the vasculature of the human posterior eye segment as an in vivo biomarker for life-threatening vascular occlusions in COVID-19 patients.