A new study has found genetic fragments of Zika in the eyes and the tears of laboratory mice with the virus, a discovery scientists suggest may offer new understanding into how the disease is transmitted.
“Our study suggests that the eye could be a reservoir for Zika virus,” Dr. Michael Diamond of Washington University St. Louis, whose paper was published in the journal Cell Reports, told Reuters.
The news comes as Congress returns from their seven-week summer recess and promptly entered into a gridlock related to Zika funding. In a pair of votes, Democrats blocked GOP bills that would pay for a public health response to the virus and fund the Pentagon next year, claiming that provisions in the bill – which would prevent funding for Planned Parenthood and allow Confederate flags in veterans’ cemeteries – made them unfavorable.
“It’s hard to explain why – despite their own calls for funding – Senate Democrats decided to block a bill that could help keep pregnant women and babies safer from Zika,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor, according to CNN. “It’s also hard to explain why – despite the array of terror attacks we’ve seen across the world – Senate Democrats decided to block a bill that could help keep the American people safer from threats like ISIL.”
“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the Confederate flag – can’t make this stuff up, that’s really the truth – than protecting women and babies from this awful virus,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid responded.
Returning to the tears study, researchers said their findings suggest that the virus could be transmitted through tears, and are planning further studies to find out whether the virus could live on in the cornea or other areas of the eye, which would complicate eye surgeries like corneal transplants.
Though primarily spread by mosquitoes, Zika has been shown to exist in other bodily elements like semen, vaginal fluid, saliva and now, possibly, tears. The virus can cause microcephaly and other brain abnormalities in the unborn children of women infected by the virus, and has recently been linked to Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome, as well.