“The eye is an immune privileged organ,” Dr. Apte said. “Several systemic agents have been repurposed for eye disease by targeting the eye with local delivery. This often avoids larger doses required for systemic treatment and off-target toxicity as smaller disease can be delivered directly to the eye. So, the eye is an excellent testing ground for drug development against Zika or other viruses that are playing havoc.”
Of course, the findings of the Cell Report
study first need to be replicated in humans before any firm conclusions can be drawn. Drs. Apte and Diamond told Contagion
that their lab is already working on human studies and they are in the process of developing a “diagnostic protocol using tear sampling.”
Dr. Apte added, “We would also like to perform additional mouse studies to demonstrate which receptor is or receptors are involved in viral entry into the eye and whether the virus comes to the eye from the blood stream or from the central nervous system. These would just be the beginning of understanding pathogenesis [of Zika] and moving towards theranostics and therapy [for the virus].”
In addition, Dr. Apte and his team are interested in studying the implications for corneal transplants in edemic areas. He stated, "Given that we discovered that there was evidence of viral particles in the corneal stroma, it would be important to investigate the implications for corneal transplantation in endemic areas. Corneal transplantation is the most common and most successful transplantation in humans. Using animal models, we would like to examine whether our findings have clinical/translational implications for corneal transplantation."
Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
To stay informed on the latest in infectious disease news and developments, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.