COVID-19 and its effects on the digestive system and endoscopy practice

JGH Open. 2020 May 17;4(3):324-331. doi: 10.1002/jgh3.12358. eCollection 2020 Jun.


The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Several studies have demonstrated that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is also a potential route. As the pandemic is continuously evolving, and more data are made available, this article highlights the best evidence and practices regarding the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus relevant to GI practice. Published clinical studies have supported that SARS-CoV-2 affects the GI tract and the liver. The largest published dataset comprised of 4243 patients and showed a pooled prevalence of GI symptoms at 17.6%. GI symptoms varied and usually preceded pulmonary symptoms by 1-2 days. These include anorexia (26.8%), nausea and vomiting (10.2%), diarrhea (12.5%), and abdominal pain (9.2%). Incidence of liver injury ranges from 15 to 53%. Evidence shows that the severity of COVID-19 infection is compounded by its effects on nutrition, most especially for the critically ill. As such, nutrition societies have recommended optimization of oral diets and oral nutritional supplements followed by early enteral nutrition if nutritional targets are not met, and parenteral nutrition in the distal end of the spectrum. In addition to possible fecal-oral transmission, GI endoscopy procedures, which are considered to be aerosol-generating procedures, contribute to increased risk to GI health-care professionals. Infection prevention measures and guidelines are essential in protecting both patients and personnel.

Keywords: COVID‐19; endoscopy; gastroenterology; liver; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review