Specialists in the US have identified a portion of the virus which causes viral keratoconjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.
Until now the condition, which can force people into isolation for up to two weeks, has had no known effective treatment, but experts at Howe Laboratory of the department of ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary believe they may have made a vital discovery.
According to the specialists, the protein coating around the virus is most inflammatory part of it and what causes the majority of the symptoms associated with the condition, which include red, irritated eyes, blurry vision and discharge.
Dr James Chodosh, cornea surgeon and senior author of the paper, said: "This is important because without inflammation, there would be no discharge from the eye and therefore no transmission. Now that we know what causes the inflammation, we hope to find a way to block it."
It follows recent research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, which suggested that certain children with the visual condition known as retinopathy of prematurity can see better at the age of six if they have early treatment for it.
by Martin Burns