Chinese researchers have found the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that is at the center of a growing epidemic in the feces and anus tissue samples of infected patients, which could suggest another way the virus is being transmitted.
A study by Wuhan University Renmin Hospital and the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that nucleic acid tests of those samples came back positive for 2019-nCoV, online news services run by the Chinese News Service reported yesterday.
The finding suggested the virus could possibly be spread through “feces-to-mouth” transmission, in addition to transmission through droplets or direct physical contact, the Chinese News Service report said, citing the study’s results presented at a news briefing in Shenzhen on Saturday.
Chang Ko (張科), head of the infection control division of Kaohsiung Municipal Siaogang Hospital, yesterday said that the Chinese finding was not surprising, given that US researchers had already found 2019-nCoV residue in feces.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday said a stool sample taken from the first person confirmed in the US to have the coronavirus tested positive for the virus, Chang said.
Shih Shin-ru (施信如), head of the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections at Chang Gung University, said that the new findings suggest preventing the spread of the virus will be more challenging, because there is another way it can be transmitted.
Local experts are advising the public to flush toilets with the lids down and to wash their hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom.
Hwang Kao-pin (黃高彬), director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at China Medical University in Taichung, said it was not uncommon to find viruses in stool.
However, the fecal transmission path could pose a threat, because if 2019-nCoV-infected stool is splashed by water out of a toilet, the virus it carries could live for two to three hours in the air and up to five days on the surface of an object, Hwang said.
To reduce the risk of infection, toilets should be disinfected with alcohol before they are used and flushed with their lids down, in addition to washing hands with soap after going to the toilet, Hwang added.