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. 2020 Mar 26;12(3):e7422.
doi: 10.7759/cureus.7422.

Gastrointestinal Infection Could Be New Focus for Coronavirus Diagnosis

Free PMC article

Gastrointestinal Infection Could Be New Focus for Coronavirus Diagnosis

Massimiliano Cipriano et al. Cureus. .
Free PMC article


It's not news to tell you that the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is a worldwide pandemic. The initial outbreak of this novel virus in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, first described in December 2019, has since moved on to being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The classic description of COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that manifests with fever, dry cough, and dyspnea on exertion. However, gastrointestinal (GI) complication of COVID-19 is emerging as well. This was observed with similar viral respiratory illnesses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which emerged in 2003, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which emerged in 2012. In a recently published, single-center case series of 138 consecutive hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19, investigators reported that approximately 10% of patients initially presented with GI symptoms, prior to the subsequent development of respiratory symptoms. Common and often very subtle symptoms included diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain, with a less common symptom being nonspecific GI illness. New studies are expanding our understanding of the possible fecal transmission of COVID-19. Assessment by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has provided evidence of the virus in the stool and the oropharynx outside the nasopharynx and respiratory tract. Virus in the stool may be evident on presentation and last throughout the course of illness resolution for up to 12 days after the respiratory virus evidence is gone. In fact, in one of the most recent studies looking at 73 patients, approximately 24% remained positive in their stool for evidence of the virus, though not necessarily infection, after showing negative in respiratory samples. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that after two negative respiratory tests separated by ≥ 24 hours, patients can be dismissed from having transmissibility infection risk for COVID-19. The potential for fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 needs to be strongly considered. Considering these cases and the lessons from SARS, many authors recommend that real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from feces should be performed routinely in SARS-CoV-2 patients.

Keywords: 2019 novel coronavirus; ace2; acute respiratory syndrome; covid-19; diarrhea; enteric symptoms; gastrointestinal infection; sars-cov-2.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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