Covid-19 / Medicine

Diagnosing Covid-19 in Tears

A new study may seek to replace nasal swabs to diagnose coronavirus

Jesse Smith, MD
3 min readJun 26, 2020
Image by LhcCoutinho from Pixabay

Testing remains at the forefront in the fight against Covid-19.

Several pressures from politics to reliability and availability of of tests in the US have hampered the effort to test people for Covid-19. Early on, the roll out of testing in the US was criticized by many as experts as too slow to address the rise in cases. Even to date, the US falls short of the level of testing that many experts feel is needed to begin to contain the virus.

Beyond political pressures, Covid-19 tests themselves have come under scrutiny for failing to provide reliable results. Tests that detect antibodies against SARS-Cov-2 have shown limitations in reliability, and may provide people with a false sense of security. Even with these limitations, testing is still one of the most critical public health efforts in containing an outbreak. Researchers are continuing efforts to develop convenient and reliable tests for Covid-19.

By now, most people have seen images of current Covid-19 tests. Social media has been inundated with videos of people succumbing to the insertion of a long nasal swab into their nose. This swab is intended to go deep beyond the nasal cavity into the nasal pharynx, where respiratory viruses can be detected. These images, and people’s reactions to their own testing have left people with the impression that Covid-19 testing is uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst.

Public appetite and demand from the scientific community for reliable and convenient Covid-19 tests has pushed some researchers to look elsewhere in the body to detect the virus. Researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School have turned their attention to the eyes, and in particular the tears to test for the virus. A team, lead by Opthalmologist Dr. Hossein Nazari have launched a study looking into using human tears as a possible test for Covid-19.

Why test tears for Covid-19?



Jesse Smith, MD

Physician and molecular biologist. I write about science, medicine, vaccines and dogs…yes dogs.