Editorial Questions COVID-19 Link to Retinal Problems

July 10, 2020

Recent research suggested that COVID-19 may lead to changes to the retina such as OCT reflective lesions of inner retina. However, a new editorial authored by a team of retina specialists, including Harvard Ophthalmology faculty Demetrios G. Vavvas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology; Dean Elliot, MD, the Stelios Evangelos Gragoudas Professor of Ophthalmology; and John. B. Miller, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, reports concerns about the purported findings and raises concerns that may represent normal anatomical structures. 

The specialists expressed concerns regarding the interpretation of the fundus and optical coherence tomography (OCT) findings that were the basis of the original study. Their editorial was published July 9 in Eye, a Nature publication.
“While there is great interest to understand potential ocular complications of COVID-19 during this pandemic, we have some concerns regarding the interpretation of the fundus and optical coherence tomography (OCT) findings,” read the commentary. They concluded, “While we applaud the authors’ efforts to gain insights into this era-defining disease that has affected all aspects of life worldwide, any uncertainty of reports on its manifestations needs to be rectified and clarified. We believe that this additional information for review by the scientific community is of paramount importance.”
Other co-authors included David Sarraf, MD, and SriniVas R. Sadda, MD, of UCLA, Justis P. Ehlers, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, Nadia K. Waheed, MD, MPH, of Tufts School of Medicine, Yuki Morizane, MD, PhD, of Okayama University, Taiji Sakamoto, MD, PhD, of Kagoshima University, both in Japan, and Miltiadis Tsilimbaris, MD, PhD, of the University of Crete in Greece.
Dr. John Miller and scientists at the Harvard/Mass Eye and Ear Retinal Imaging Lab are exploring the possibility of retinal findings in a larger cohort of patients with COVID-19 using the most cutting edge OCT and OCTA technologies. They encourage clinicians and researchers who are interested in supporting this important work to clarify the still many unknowns of this awful virus.