BACKGROUND: The effect of eye protection to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection in the real-world remains uncertain. We aimed to synthesize all available research on the potential impact of eye protection on transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
METHODS: We searched PROSPERO, PubMed, Embase, The Cochrane Library for clinical trials and comparative observational studies in CENTRAL, and Europe PMC for pre-prints. We included studies that reported sufficient data to estimate the effect of any form of eye protection including face shields and variants, goggles, and glasses, on subsequent confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2.
RESULTS: We screened 898 articles and included 6 reports of 5 observational studies from 4 countries (USA, India, Columbia, and United Kingdom) that tested face shields, goggles, and wraparound eyewear on 7567 healthcare workers. The three before-and-after and one retrospective cohort studies showed statistically significant and substantial reductions in SARS-CoV-2 infections favouring eye protection with odds ratios ranging from 0.04 to 0.6, corresponding to relative risk reductions of 96% to 40%. These reductions were not explained by changes in the community rates. However, the one case-control study reported odds ratio favouring no eye protection (OR 1.7, 95% CI 0.99, 3.0). The high heterogeneity between studies precluded any meaningful meta-analysis. None of the studies adjusted for potential confounders such as other protective behaviours, thus increasing the risk of bias, and decreasing the certainty of evidence to very low.
CONCLUSIONS: Current studies suggest that eye protection may play a role in prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection in healthcare workers. However, robust comparative trials are needed to clearly determine effectiveness of eye protections and wearability issues in both healthcare and general populations.