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?
- Can COVID-19 be transmitted by faecal-oral routes?
- What is faecal-oral transmission?
- Can transmission occur via aerosolized faeces?
- How long can SARS-CoV-2 persist in the environment?
- Amount of infectious virus shed in faeces and infectious dose
- How do we detect COVID-19 in human faeces?
- How do we conduct surveillance for COVID-19 in wastewater and sludge?
- If COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, why would it be detected in faeces?
- Are there special considerations for sanitation and COVID-19?
- Do sanitation workers need to take special precautions while handling faecal waste?
- Do sanitation workers face other risks that require preventative actions?
- Can water sources be contaminated with SARS-Cov-2?
- Guidance for water treatment
- Water quantity
Author: Jackie Knee