Coronavirus less likely to infect glasses wearers, study suggests

Good news, glasses wearers: Your spectacles may offer you some extra protection from the novel coronavirus, according to the findings of a new study. 

In a report published earlier this month on the pre-print site medRxiv, researchers said that those who wear glasses at least eight hours during the day are less likely to contract the novel disease because they touch their eyes less frequently than those who do not wear glasses. 

COVID-19 mainly spreads when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or even talks, with the infectious particles posing a risk to healthy persons should they breathe those infectious particles in (hence the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing measures). However, the virus can also spread through the membranes protecting your eyes, namely the conjunctiva.

Indeed, “touching and rubbing of the eyes with contaminated hands may be a significant route of infection for SARS-CoV-2 virus,” the researchers wrote. 

CORONAVIRUS LINGERED IN WOMAN’S EYES LONG AFTER IT CLEARED FROM HER NOSE, STUDY REVEALED

For the study, the researchers surveyed just over 300 people who were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in India. The patients, who ranged in age from 10 to 80, were asked about their glasses-wearing habits. About 60 patients were identified as “long-time glasses-wearers,” per the report. 

By the end, the researchers concluded that those who wear glasses were two to three less likely to contract COVID-19 compared to those who do not wear glasses. 

“This present study showed that the risk of COVID-19 was 2-3 times less in spectacles-wearing population than the population not using spectacles. [The] protective role of the spectacles was found statistically significant if those were used for [a] long period of the day,” or more than eight hours, they concluded. 

The findings bolster previous research done on this topic. In a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology in September, for instance, Chinese researchers also found those who wear eyeglasses for extended daily periods may be less susceptible to COVID-19.

South African coronavirus variant detected in New York resident

New York has confirmed a case of the South African coronavirus variant in a Nassau County resident.

The case was discovered through sequencing at a city-based commercial lab, and no other details were given in an announcement posted Sunday, such as the patient’s condition, travel history or when the case was confirmed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted a drop in statewide positivity and hospitalizations, allowing a further push on reopenings, but amid news of the variant, urged residents to double down on mitigation measures like face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

“…With the discovery of a case of the South African variant in the state, it’s more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay vigilant, wear masks, wash hands and stay socially distanced.” Cuomo said, in part, in a statement posted Sunday. “We are in a race right now — between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate — and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined.”

The news follows a separate announcement from last Monday, when the state confirmed the variant in a patient who was transferred to a city hospital from Connecticut. At the time, Cuomo said that there was no evidence of further spread pertaining to the case.

Several mutated versions of the virus have caused significant concern among experts because they have shown to diminish vaccine efficacy, including variants first identified in South Africa, B.1.351, and the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7. These strains involve changes along the surface spike proteins that allow the pathogen to bind more tightly to healthy cells. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the B.1.351 variant has been reported in 22 cases across ten states, with 44 states reporting over 1,660 cases of the B.1.1.7 strain, which has been projected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.

Several companies are exploring variant booster shots in a bid for more protection against the strains. Both Pfizer and Moderna have said protection against the B.1.351 variant in particular remains unclear. Studies have suggested the variant dropped the Pfizer vaccine’s neutralization power by about two-thirds, while Moderna saw a six-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies.