Scientists have found live coronavirus on the faeces of people who have died from the illness. Researchers at Guangzhou Medical University have found fragments of the virus’s genetic material in fecal samples from about a dozen patients.
In some cases, the viral load was higher in the fecal samples than in respiratory samples, according to the team.
The study was published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The researchers collected fecal samples from 27 patients, 11 of whom had viral RNA in their specimens.
When the researchers negatively stained residue from a culture and visualized it using transmission electron microscopy, they saw spherical viral particles with spike proteins characteristic of SARS-CoV-2.
The live virus couldn’t be isolated from fecal samples collected after 28 days but the team still found ‘viral RNA, ‘indicating only RNA fragments, not infectious virus.’
The researchers noted the new virus belongs to the same family as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was also linked to a spread via stool.
‘Isolation of infectious SARS-CoV-2 in feces indicates the possibility of fecal–oral transmission or fecal–respiratory transmission through aerosolized feces,’ the authors wrote.
The authors said the findings indicate why it’s important for hospital staff to carefully clean surfaces after a patient is discharged from or dies at a hospital to prevent potentially spreading the virus from feces.