Coronavirus Found in Human Feces Up to 7 Months After Infection

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By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 is chiefly known arsenic a respiratory ailment, but a caller survey suggests the coronavirus tin infect your intestinal tract for weeks and months aft you've cleared the bug from your lungs.

In the survey astir 1 retired of 7 COVID patients continued to shed the virus' familial remnants successful their feces astatine slightest 4 months aft their archetypal diagnosis, agelong aft they've stopped shedding the microorganism from their respiratory tract, researchers found.

This could explicate wherefore immoderate COVID patients make GI symptoms similar abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, said elder researcher Dr. Ami Bhatt, an subordinate prof of medicine and genetics astatine Stanford University.

"We recovered that radical who had cleared their respiratory corruption -- meaning they were nary longer investigating affirmative for SARS-CoV-2 successful their respiratory tract -- were continuing to shed SARS-CoV-2 RNA successful their feces," Bhatt said. "And those radical successful peculiar had a precocious incidence of GI symptoms."

A semipermanent corruption of the gut besides mightiness lend to long COVID symptoms successful immoderate people, Bhatt and her colleagues theorized.

"Long COVID could beryllium the effect of ongoing immune absorption to SARS-CoV-2, but it besides could beryllium that we person radical who person persistent infections that are hiding retired successful niches different than the respiratory tract, similar the GI tract," Bhatt said.

For this study, the probe squad took vantage of an aboriginal clinical trial launched successful May 2020 astatine Stanford to trial a imaginable attraction for mild COVID infection. More than 110 patients were monitored to travel the improvement of their symptoms, and regular fecal samples were collected arsenic portion of an effort to way their viral shedding.

Many different studies person focused connected viral shedding successful patients with severe cases of COVID, but this is the archetypal to measure the beingness of viral RNA successful fecal samples collected from radical with mild to mean COVID, researchers said.

About fractional of the patients (49%) had COVID RNA remnants successful their stool wrong the archetypal week aft diagnosis, researchers found.


But astatine 4 months pursuing diagnosis, erstwhile nary much COVID remained successful their lungs, astir 13% of patients continued to shed viral RNA successful their feces.

About 4% inactive were shedding viral RNA successful their feces 7 months retired from their archetypal diagnosis, researchers found.

Bhatt was speedy to enactment that the RNA constituted familial remnants of the coronavirus, and not existent unrecorded microorganism -- truthful it's improbable a person's poop could beryllium contagious.

"While determination person been isolated reports of radical being capable to isolate unrecorded SARS-CoV-2 microorganism from stool, I deliberation that that's astir apt overmuch little communal than being capable to isolate unrecorded microorganism from the respiratory tract," Bhatt said. "I don't deliberation that our survey suggests that there's tons of fecal-oral transmission."

But the lingering beingness of COVID successful the gut does suggest 1 imaginable power for long-haul disease, she said.

"SARS-CoV-2 mightiness beryllium hanging retired astatine the gut oregon adjacent different tissues for a longer play of clip than it sticks astir successful the respiratory tract, and determination it tin fundamentally proceed to benignant of tickle our immune system and induce immoderate of these semipermanent consequences," Bhatt said.

Long COVID has go specified an established occupation that galore large aesculapian centers person established their ain agelong COVID clinics to effort to suss retired symptoms and imaginable treatments, said Dr. William Schaffner, aesculapian manager of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

"A precise important proportionality of individuals who retrieve from COVID acutely nevertheless person lingering symptoms, and they tin impact an array of antithetic organ systems," Schaffner said.

"These information adhd to the conception that the cells successful the intestine whitethorn themselves beryllium progressive with COVID viral infection, and they could perchance beryllium contributors to immoderate of the symptoms -- abdominal pain, nausea, benignant of conscionable intestinal distress -- that tin beryllium 1 facet of agelong COVID," helium said.

Bhatt said the findings besides person implications for nationalist wellness efforts to foretell emerging COVID outbreaks by investigating a community's wastewater for grounds of the virus, and Schaffner agrees.

"If, arsenic they say, astir 4% of radical 7 oregon 8 months aboriginal are inactive excreting viral remnants successful their stool, it complicates the appraisal of the density of caller infections successful a community," Schaffner said. "It's different happening we person to instrumentality into information and commencement looking astatine going forward."


But Dr. Amesh Adalja, a elder student with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, doesn't hold that specified semipermanent shedding successful stool should impact the accuracy of wastewater COVID surveillance.

"I don’t deliberation that these findings alteration the worth of wastewater surveillance, arsenic we’ve already seen its worth successful existent life," Adalja said. "What’s invaluable astir wastewater surveillance is the inclination if it is expanding oregon decreasing, which isn’t truly impacted by this phenomenon."

The caller survey appears successful the online diary Med.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has much astir wastewater surveillance for COVID-19.

SOURCES: Ami Bhatt, MD, PhD, subordinate professor, medicine and genetics, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.; William Schaffner, MD, aesculapian director, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; Amesh Adalja, MD, elder scholar, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Med, April 12, 2022