Doctors fear that there is an additional route of transmission via the digestive tract in addition to a droplet infection. It was the same with the SARS epidemic.
So far, it has been assumed that the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV is mainly transmitted from person to person through droplet infection. However, researchers at the Shi Zhengli laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology have now found genetic traces of the coronavirus in stool samples from infected patients, which may indicate an additional transmission path.
The findings of the Chinese researchers were also confirmed by US colleagues: Genetic traces of the new coronavirus were also found in the stool of a 35-year-old man from the USA who had recently returned from a trip to Wuhan.
The presence of the novel coronavirus ribonucleic acid suggests that the disease may persist in the stool, the Shenzhen Health Commission said on Saturday in a statement.
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a biomolecule that carries the genetic information of certain types of viruses, i.e. the material basis of the genes.
With certain viral diseases (nota or noroviruses), the pathogens are carried on the hands in the smallest traces of stool residues or vomit from the sick. The viruses can easily get into your mouth by hand.
It is also possible in rare cases to be contaminated with contaminated water or food on which pathogens adhere. Such viruses remain contagious in the dried stool for several days. They even survive in the water for several weeks.
SARS also had transmission through human excretions
The information from the state-run Xinhua news agency also caught people’s attention that, in addition to the usual symptoms, some patients also had diarrhea.
The Chinese researchers are also alarmed because there was a similar observation in 2003 in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a related type of coronavirus.
The SARS-CoV was transmitted through the inhalation of infectious droplets (coughing, sneezing), through contact with blood or excretions from infected people (stool, urine, vomit, sweat, etc.) and the consumption of water or food were contaminated with feces or secretions.
At that time, the World Health Organization found that the virus in the feces of infected people with diarrhea remained stable for up to four days. This contributed to the fact that a considerable viral load was channeled into a dilapidated sewage system, which contributed significantly to the spread of the disease.
Disinfect and air!
Zhang Qiwei, a professor at the School of Public Health at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, also warned that flushing the toilet could spread the virus in tiny air particles (aerosols).
To rule out the fecal-oral transmission, all toilets that an infected person or a potentially infected person has used must be carefully disinfected and ventilated, Zhang told Beijing News. Hospital staff and sufferers need to protect themselves carefully, the South China Morning Post, the leading newspaper in Hong Kong, said. The latest reports once again underlined the need to clean hands regularly with soap.
Further investigations are now to clarify whether the virus actually exists in the digestive tract and can also be transmitted through the feces.
“We need more epidemiological studies to confirm that the virus is transmitted through the feces or is retransmitted by the formation of aerosols by infected droplets,” said Feng Luzhao, a researcher of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on the daily National Health Commission press conference.