Scientists have found that the SARS virus can be present in infected people's tears. The researchers at Singapore's National University warn that their discovery suggests the virus might be transmitted by tears. But it could also lead to a rapid test for infection.
Last year, the scientists took samples from the tear ducts of 36 patients, eight of whom were later diagnosed as having 'probable SARS'. The virus that causes SARS was detected in the tears of three of the infected patients.
The patients in whose tears SARS was detected had all been tested within nine days of developing symptoms. But the virus was not found in the tears of five patients tested 11 days after symptoms arose. This raises the possibility that the virus may only be present in tears in the early stages of infection. It also means that a simple method of detecting SARS by testing tears could be developed.