The coronavirus could be spread through the stool of Covid-19 patients, according to a new study from Chinese researchers.
Infectious particles from the virus were found in fecal samples from a 78-year-old Covid-19 patient at the Fifth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangdong Province in late January and early February, researchers reported in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Now they are asking whether the deadly virus could be transmissible through the stool of infected patients.
Health experts have believed the highly contagious virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets, contact with infected surfaces and possibly aerosols. Now “it is unclear whether the virus in feces is infectious and might be an additional source for transmission,” the letter said.
Researchers collected fecal samples from the male patient, who was admitted to the hospital on January 17 and died on February 20, on January 27 and 29, and again on February 1 and 7. “All samples were positive for viral RNA,” indicating that the virus was in the feces. The viral antigen was also found in gastrointestinal cells, the researchers noted.
Previous analysis from China, including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine, have also revealed the discovery of coronavirus in the stools of infected people, but the samples did not contain infectious amounts of the virus until now.
In all, samples from 28 patients were tested as part of the study and 12 were positive for viral RNA, including those from the 78-year-old man, the researchers in Guangdong said.
The researchers said the study indicated a need to take precautions against the potential spread of the coronavirus through feces. “Discharge and hospital cleaning practices should consider this possibility for critically ill patients or those who died who had high viral loads and are more likely to shed infectious virus.”