What is the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the eye?

Eversight awarded targeted research grant to analyze COVID-19 effects on eye donation

CLEVELAND, June 8, 2020 — Eversight has been awarded an Eye Bank Association of America (EBAA) Targeted Research Grant to investigate COVID-19 testing of potential eye tissue donors and how COVID-19 infection affects the safety of eye tissues donated for sight-restoring transplants.

Individuals known or suspected of having COVID-19 are restricted from becoming eye donors. While respiratory viruses are not known to transmit by implantation, transplantation, infusion or transfer of human cells or tissue according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the potential for COVID-19 transmission through corneal grafts and the virus’ effects on the eye are unknown.

Eversight's team of researchers in Cleveland, Chicago and Ann Arbor, Mich.—cities in regions heavily impacted by COVID-19—intend to answer those questions as hospitals, surgery centers and surgeons slowly resume sight-restoring corneal transplants.

"Our goal is to answer a crucial question in the field of ophthalmology right now: 'What is the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in the eye?'" said Onkar B. Sawant, PhD, Eversight Director of Research and head of the Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research in Cleveland. "We anticipate implications for eye banks and patients receiving the gift of sight throughout the world, ensuring the post-pandemic safety and availability of donated tissues for transplants."

Analyzing effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on donor pool, infiltration of SARS-CoV-2 in ocular tissues and evaluating effectiveness of Povidone Iodine to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 is one of two projects that the EBAA awarded with a $7,500 grant. In addition to Dr. Sawant, named a 2018 Emerging Vision Scientist by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, the research team includes:

  • Shahzad I. Mian, MD, primary investigator and professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Medical School and Kellogg Eye Center. He also serves on the Eversight Board of Directors and chairs its Medical Advisory Committee. Dr. Mian's research focuses on the role of lasers in corneal transplantation, keratoplasty techniques and clinical studies in refractive surgery.
  • Michael S. Titus, CEBT, vice president of clinical operations at Eversight. He has more than 13 years of experience in the eye banking industry. At Eversight, Titus developed a preloaded carrier option for DMEK tissue in the modified Jones tube and DORC injector.
  • Parag A. Majmudar, MD, president and chief medical officer at Chicago Cornea Consultants and associate professor of ophthalmology at Rush Medical College. His clinical research activities are in the field of corneal and refractive surgery.
  • Ashok Kumar, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, visual and anatomical sciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is an ocular immunologist who has done ground-breaking research in the field of Zika virus pathogenesis.

About Eversight
Eversight is a nonprofit organization with a mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research. The Eversight network is responsible for recovering, evaluating and providing human eye tissue for transplantation; supporting research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting donation awareness through public and professional education; and providing humanitarian aid to people around the world in need of corneal transplantation. Operating in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea, Eversight works in collaboration with surgeons, researchers, academic medical centers and eye banks across the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

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