The coronavirus that’s infected more than 14,000 people in two dozen countries may be transmitted through the digestive tract, Chinese state media reported.
Virus genetic material was discovered in patient stool and rectal swabs, Xinhua said Sunday. The finding was made by scientists from the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University and the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences after noting that some patients infected with the 2019-nCoV virus had diarrhea early in the disease, instead of a fever, which is more common, the report said.
That means the pathogen might be transmitted along the fecal-oral route, not just from coming into contact with virus-laden droplets emitted from a sick person’s cough. Doctors have focused on respiratory samples from pneumonia cases to identify coronavirus patients, but they might have ignored diarrhea, a less apparent potential source of the spread, Bloomberg News reported Saturday.
Diarrhea occurred in about 10-20% of patients afflicted with a related virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. A virus-laden aerosol plume emanating from a SARS patient with diarrhea was implicated in possibly hundreds of cases at Hong Kong’s Amoy Gardens housing complex in 2003.
That led the city’s researchers to understand the importance of the virus’s spread through the gastrointestinal tract, and to recognize both the limitation of face masks and importance of cleanliness and hygiene.
The first U.S. case experienced diarrhea before becoming ill with pneumonia and his doctors at the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in Washington found specimens were positive for 2019-nCoV.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines