Several studies in different countries have detected SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in the faeces of individuals with COVID-19 (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5). SARS-CoV-2 genetic material has been detected in the stool of COVID-19 patients with and without gastrointestinal symptoms (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4) and in recovered individuals who no longer have any symptoms (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3).

However, the presence of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in stool does not necessarily indicate infection or disease. A few studies have attempted to detect viable, infectious virus from stool with mixed results; three studies reported detection of live virus (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3) in stool and one reported no detection of live virus despite detection of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material (Study 3). There is some evidence the virus may be inactivated by the harsh conditions present in the human colon. Please refer to this resource which explains how the virus is detected in faeces, this resource to understand why a respiratory virus would be detected in faeces, and this resource to understand the risk of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19.

Want to know more about faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19?

Editor's note

Author: Jackie Knee

Review: Tom Heath, Robert Dreibelbis, Oliver Cumming, Karin Gallandat, Kate Medlicott
Last update: 13.08.2020

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