A new study published by Chinese researchers shows that coronavirus can still be detected in the feces of a deceased coronavirus patient. This suggests that the virus can still spread through the fecal-oral route.
Health experts have warned the public that the coronavirus can be contracted through the saliva droplets of coronavirus patients, the droplets stay in the air for hours after the person coughs or sneezes. However, Chinese researchers stated that there are fragments of the virus detected in the fecal samples of dozens of patients.
Also, in some cases, the percentage of the virus is so much higher in fecal samples than in droplets, according to the researcher team in Guangzhou Medical University. The study was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the researchers studied a 78-year-old man who tested positive for coronavirus in January.
The man was hospitalized in Guangzhou, China with irregular fevers, cough, and abnormal chest CT scans. Just five days after his hospitalization, he was placed on a ventilator in the ICU after his health declined. The tested traced the RNA of the coronavirus in four fecal specimens that were collected from him from January 27 and February 7.
Unfortunately, the man passed away on February 20. The researchers used transmission electron microscopy to study the residue from the patient, and that was when they saw the spherical viral particles with characteristics of the virus.
The researchers then collected fecal samples from 27 different patients, and 11 of them had viral RNA in their feces. The researchers successfully isolated the live virus in two patients, and they wrote that the infectious virus found in feces is a common manifestation of COVID-19.
The samples that were collected from patients around 17 to 28 days after their symptoms began showed a higher load of virus DNA than samples that they took from saliva droplets. After 28 days, the live virus could no longer be isolated from the fecal samples but the researchers still found viral RNA, and it shows that it is only RNA fragments and not the infectious virus.
The researchers also noted that the virus belongs to the same family as SARS. In 2003, there were hundreds of SARS cases in Hong Kong. It was believed that it was caused by stool specimens as the bathroom that the SARS patient used has contaminated the neighboring apartments and it was also carried by wind to other buildings in the area.
The authors of the study wrote that the isolation of infectious coronavirus in feces shows that there is a possibility of fecal-oral transmission or fecal-respiratory transmission through aerosolized feces.
The authors added that the findings prove that it is important for hospital staff to clean surfaces carefully especially after a patient is discharged from COVID-19 or after a patient dies in order to prevent spreading the virus.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now 5,543, 439 coronavirus cases worldwide, with 347,836 deaths. The United States remains the number one country with the most coronavirus cases. As of writing, there are now 1,669,040 cases in the country with 98,426 total deaths.