SYDNEY and MELBOURNE, Australia, May 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As Australians shy away from hospitals and medical centres due to the fear of COVID-19, health experts are advising patients to seek medical attention before routine health issues deteriorate into more serious complications.
One of Australia's leading ophthalmologists, Prof. Stephanie Watson, Sydney Eye Hospital, has observed a decline in patients with eye conditions presenting for treatment, as people may be fearful of attending clinics due to a perceived risk of COVID-19 infection.
"We know the risk of COVID-19 is front of mind for all Australians currently, but non-related illnesses and infections are not only common but can pose significant risks to the eye and vision in the absence of medical attention. The message from the health authorities is clear: if you have a medical condition needing attention, don't delay, seek treatment" said Professor Watson.
"For example, take conjunctivitis, the most common eye infection we see in Australia and an uncommon presentation of COVID-19 disease. While there might be a temptation to avoid treatment, if left untreated, there is a risk of impaired vision. Now is not the time to ignore medical attention for common eye problems."
Patients can receive free treatment from eye specialists in an ongoing clinical trial throughout Australia testing a novel therapeutic to treat adenoviral conjunctivitis. The RUBY trial, funded by Okogen, provides free treatment for adenoviral conjunctivitis as well as patient compensation for time and travel. It is accepting adult patients who are in the early stages of adenoviral ocular infections to evaluate its viral conjunctivitis treatment. It is accepting adult patients who are in the early stages of adenoviral ocular infections to evaluate its viral conjunctivitis treatment. Enrolled patients receive free treatment and four consultation visits with a specialist, as well as compensation for their travel and time.
Studies indicated that conjunctivitis is an uncommon event with COVID-19. Conjunctival redness was present in a subset of patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, typically occurring in those with systemic symptoms.
In response, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) have issued advice to seek immediate medical attention if symptoms present.
Dr Brian M Strem, PhD, CEO of Okogen, a biotechnology company leading the development of novel ophthalmic anti-viral therapies, says even though viral conjunctivitis may seem like a minor irritant, it's always worth getting evaluated. "As only a small number of COVID-19 patients will show eye signs and symptoms, it's more likely patients with conjunctivitis symptoms are infected with adenovirus, not COVID-19. However, patients should seek appropriate medical attention in any case."
Adenoviral conjunctivitis is a communicable disease and is the number one cause of eye infections globally. While bacterial conjunctivitis is typically treated with antibiotics, these drugs do not work in treating viral forms of the infection. Despite the high incidence of adenoviral conjunctivitis, there are no approved therapies for the disease, and it remains a significant unmet medical need throughout the world.
Dr. Dominic Rillstone from Casey Superclinic in Berwick Victoria, a participating investigator in the RUBY trial, says that while fear of healthcare facilities has developed in response to COVID-19, it's also important to seek appropriate care. "It's natural to fear the spread of COVID-19 and we strive to take all necessary precautions. While some clinics have been closed due to COVID-19 or had their services diverted, sites like ours are pleased to be opening again, making it easier for people to seek medical attention."
To learn more about the RUBY trial, visit rubytrial.com.au
Okogen is a San Diego and Melbourne-based, clinical-stage, speciality biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutics to help patients with ocular diseases. The company's lead development candidate, OKG-0301, is a broad-spectrum antiviral that functions intracellularly to inhibit viral replication and reduce ocular inflammation. These mechanisms of action are expected to provide clinical benefit in addressing adenoviral infections of the eye as well as other classes of viruses that are active in the ocular space, including herpes simplex virus, varicella-zoster virus, picornavirus, and more.
OKG-0301 is based on ranpirnase, the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) previously advanced to late-stage clinical trials in oncology. OKG-0301 is an effective anti-viral therapeutic currently being evaluated across many viral infections and works by preventing intracellular viral replication.
About Adenoviral Conjunctivitis
Worldwide, adenoviral conjunctivitis is the most common eye infection, affecting approximately 25 million individuals annually. The condition is a leading ocular disease, responsible for over 1% of all primary care visits. Most cases involve eye redness with varying degrees of swelling and ocular discharge, accompanied by clinical symptoms including pain, itching, and a foreign body sensation. The highly contagious infection lasts for 2-3 weeks, with patients remaining contagious for 10-14 days after the first onset of disease. Transmission to family members or close contacts is extremely common and patients are advised to avoid work and/or school until symptoms fully resolve.
 Guan, W, Ni, Z, Liang, W, Ou, C, He, J, Liu, L, Shan, H, Lei, C, Hui, D, Du, B, Li, L. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China" (2020) The New England Journal of Medicine. Feb 28, 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2002032 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032