Iva Dekaris MD, PhD
Prof Iva Dekaris MD, PhD, Medical Director, Head of the Corneal Department at Svjetlost University Eye Hospital, Zagreb, Croatia and President of the European Eye Bank Association, outlines the difficult situation facing eye banks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a very difficult situation that all health professionals are facing at the moment and eye banks are no exception. The European Eye Bank Association (EEBA) has tried to keep its member eye banks updated and informed about the latest developments by sharing recommendations and guidelines related to COVID-19.
In consideration of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, members of the Global Alliance of Eye Bank Associations (GAEBA) have consolidated international responses in relation to ocular tissue donation so as to issue a global alert outlining those recommendations that apply to both active transmission zones and non-effected zones.
All the same, as response plans vary across the world, and will continue to change, depending on the country and the spread of the disease, EEBA advises that all Eye Banks and their Medical Directors liaise closely with their pertinent competent health authority and/or their respective Eye Bank Association, to ascertain up-to-date local/regional exclusion and deferral criteria.
To this end, the EEBA Medical Special Interest Group (SIG) has recently updated the EEBA’s Minimum Medical Standards by specifically citing this virus with regards to evaluating “Evidence of any other risk factors for transmissible diseases on the basis of a risk assessment” (in the Revision 5 of the EEBA Minimum Medical Standards). In addition, the Medical SIG has emphasised to EEBA members to remain up-to-date with the surveillance and epidemic intelligence actions of the European Centre of Disease Control on this issue.
Regrettably, most European Eye Banks are not issuing tissues for elective surgeries during the pandemic, and it is difficult to predict how we will deal in the post-pandemic period with all the surgical cases that have been postponed during this outbreak. Our ability in the future to provide ocular tissues and cells of optimum quality and safety for transplantation and the treatment of eye diseases will definitely depend on the length of time that Europe is affected by this crisis, and we may expect that some eye banks will not “survive” if the epidemic continues for a long time.
There is, however, some positive news to report. Namely, a research team from St-Etienne (active EEBA members) are involved in research to measure the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 contamination in donor corneas and determine its potential cytopathogenic effect (or absence of effect). We hope to be able to share more news about this in the near future.”
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