Standardized preservation, extraction and quantification techniques for detection of fecal SARS-CoV-2 RNA

Nat Commun. 2021 Oct 1;12(1):5753. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-25576-6.


Patients with COVID-19 shed SARS-CoV-2 RNA in stool, sometimes well after their respiratory infection has cleared. This may be significant for patient health, epidemiology, and diagnosis. However, methods to preserve stool, and to extract and quantify viral RNA are not standardized. We test the performance of three preservative approaches at yielding detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA: the OMNIgene-GUT kit, Zymo DNA/RNA shield kit, and the most commonly applied, storage without preservative. We test these in combination with three extraction kits: QIAamp Viral RNA Mini Kit, Zymo Quick-RNA Viral Kit, and MagMAX Viral/Pathogen Kit. We also test the utility of ddPCR and RT-qPCR for the reliable quantification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA from stool. We identify that the Zymo DNA/RNA preservative and the QiaAMP extraction kit yield more detectable RNA than the others, using both ddPCR and RT-qPCR. Taken together, we recommend a comprehensive methodology for preservation, extraction and detection of RNA from SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses in stool.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing / standards*
  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins / genetics
  • Feces / virology*
  • Humans
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Preservation, Biological / standards
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Reference Standards
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / isolation & purification*
  • Specimen Handling / standards
  • Viral Load / standards


  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Viral
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • nucleocapsid phosphoprotein, SARS-CoV-2